A piping plover nests in Scarborough, among 140 statewide nesting pairs reported by Maine Audubon in a good year for the endangered shore birds. Contributed / Photo by Ariana van den Akker

Piping plovers, considered to be endangered by the state of Maine, rebounded across the state this summer, including in Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth.

Over 250 fledglings, or chicks who matured enough to fly, were hatched in Maine this year compared to 175 in 2019; 199 in 2020; and 213 in 2021. Of the 252 fledglings in Maine this year, 31 were hatched in Scarborough – 17 of which were on Ferry Beach. Cape Elizabeth saw eight fledglings this year: five at Crescent Beach State Park and three at Ram Island.

A young plover on a Scarborough beach in May. Contributed/Photo by Rachel Parent

The plovers, which arrive on southern Maine beaches each spring to nest, were listed as endangered by the state in 1986 when there were fewer than a dozen nesting pairs. The birds are protected by both state and federal laws.

This year, there were 140 nesting pairs of plovers in Maine, according to Maine Audubon.

Education has been a major reason the species is rebounding, said Laura Minich Zitske, coastal bird program director and a wildlife ecologist at Maine Audubon.

“I think education is a key component to their success,” she said last week. “We’ve had a lot of luck expanding our volunteer programs.”


One of those programs is in Scarborough, where volunteers help the town keep an eye on nests and chicks.

“This summer we had more than 60 volunteers spend more than 1,500 hours on our beaches,” wrote Jami Fitch, Scarborough’s sustainability coordinator, in an email to The Forecaster. “These volunteers are an essential part of our piping plover protection efforts.”

Scarborough also works closely with the Maine Audubon and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“Maine Audubon marks off the areas (where plovers are likely to be) to keep people out of those areas,” Fitch said. “We also have a beach management agreement with the IF&W that outlines steps the town will take to protect the plovers.”

Those steps include beach ordinances such as dog leash hours, and beach vehicle regulations during beach cleanings or emergency responses, Fitch said.

Cape Elizabeth is in the process of developing a volunteer program, Zitske said.


The reason the species is endangered in Maine is largely because of habitat loss.

“Our beaches in Maine that are nice, broad, sandy beaches – that people like – are the only places piping plovers can nest,” Zitske said. “We end up inadvertently loving our beaches to death, like putting up seawalls that damage our broad, sandy beaches.”

When it comes to educating the public, sometimes it simply takes someone becoming aware of the species – the piping plovers take it from there.

“They’re very cute and charming,” Zitske said. “A lot of it is just pointing them out and connecting people to the nature that surrounds them.”

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