Harsh weather raises concerns about piping plovers

FILE - In this July 12, 2007 file photo, a piping plover runs along a beach in the Quonochontaug Conservation Area in Westerly, R.I. (AP Photo/File, Steven Senne)

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – Piping plovers had a tough year in the Ocean State and the recent hurricane season raised even more of a concern.

Piping plovers are threatened under the Endangered Species Act because they nest in popular areas for visitors such as Moonstone Beach in South Kingstown, but it was predators and spring rain that had a major impact on the population this year.

“They happened throughout the breeding season and they unfortunately happened when we had young chicks,” said Jennifer White of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Young chicks cannot regulate their body temperature, so the rain caused many nests to fail. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of chicks produced per nest was down over 50 percent this year.

“That is not enough to keep the population stable and also not enough to keep the population growing,” White said.

The recent hurricanes can impact migration patterns, but the community’s protection of the piping plovers and their habitat is key to their survival during harsh weather. 

The piping plovers have gone south for the winter, but are expected to come back in early April.

Watch the video above for more information about Rhode Island’s piping clovers and aerial footage of Moonstone Beach.