West Sayville, NY - June 10, 2016 - "Plover season has arrived”, announced the Suffolk County Parks Department, and with that inevitably comes the unfortunate obligation to close access to some outer beach areas within the Parks as required by the federal government.
The piping plovers are small, sand-colored birds that nest on dry, sandy beaches, making Long Island beaches an ideal habitat. Due to its declining population, the piping plover is listed as a threatened species and is therefore protected under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has developed recovery plans that describe actions required to help the plovers survive and the population to recover.
The recovery plan requires the Suffolk County Parks Department to locate nests, install fences and signs, and close all or portion of County beaches to protect the plovers. Seasonal employees are hired each year to track the mating pairs and to record nest activity. Ideally, once the eggs are laid, it will be approximately twenty-eight days before they hatch, and another four weeks for the chicks to be fully fledged and able to fly.
Before fledging, they will run from the dunes to the shoreline and back, and due to their small size and color can easily be overlooked, thus requiring the surrounding area to be closed off to driving. This process can be prolonged when a nest fails (eggs don’t hatch, or nest is disturbed). When this occurs, plovers will often re-nest, and the process starts again.
While adhering to the federal guidelines to protect the plovers, the Parks Department also recognizes that Suffolk County outer beaches are also a favorite site for beachgoers, fishermen, surfers and campers, and works hard to limit closures and maintain access to the best of its ability. Park visitors can help to limit length of closures by avoiding restricted areas, keeping pets leashed and following instruction from park staff and posted signs.