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Piping Plovers: The First Migration

Lauren DinanContributed by Lauren Dinan, Nongame Bird Biologist

After spending the last three months on their breeding sites here in Nebraska, Piping Plovers have started their southward migration to their wintering grounds along the U.S. Gulf and Southern Atlantic Coast. Some of these plovers have already successfully arrived on their wintering grounds.

The Piping Plover pictured below, with its light blue flag and yellow over green bands on its right leg and metal and gray over gray bands on its left leg, recently made its first successful migration. This plover hatched from its egg on June 6th, 2016, at a lakeshore housing development in Dodge County, Nebraska.  It was caught and banded as a 7-day old chick on June 13th.  This plover fledged (became capable of flight) about four weeks after it hatched. Only about 30 days after learning to fly this plover made the 900 mile journey south and was reported along the U.S. Gulf Coast near Houston, TX on August 6th, 2016.  The plover was spotted and photographed by Amanda Anderson and forwarded to us by Dr. Susan Heath, both of whom are part of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.

Seven-day old Piping Plover chicks banded along the lower Platte River in Dodge County, NE on June 13th, 2016.
A Seven-day old Piping Plover chick banded at a lakeshore housing development along lower Platte River in Dodge County, NE on June 13th, 2016.
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The same plover, nine-weeks old, feeding along the U.S. Gulf Coast near Houston, Texas on August 6th, 2016. Photo taken by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.

Migration is no easy task, especially only a few short weeks after hatching from your egg. It is pretty incredible, but birds have been doing this for eons!

Nongame Bird Program

Thanks to Amanda Anderson and Susan Heath with the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory for reporting this observation, providing us valuable data about “our” Piping Plovers, and for permission to use the photo in this blog post.

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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