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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : News : Piping plover nesting season in full swing at Cape Henlopen

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Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Piping plover nesting season in full swing at Cape Henlopen
First hatches anticipated as soon as holiday weekend 

LEWES (May 22, 2015) – Delaware beach-nesting bird monitors report that nesting season is progressing by leaps and bounds, with a flurry of activity by piping plovers and oystercatchers at Cape Henlopen and Delaware Seashore state parks.

“With piping plovers off to an early start this year, we could see the first piping plover hatches at Cape Henlopen State Park as early as Memorial Day weekend,” said Wildlife Biologist Matthew Bailey, Division of Fish & Wildlife.

On the Point at Cape Henlopen, three piping plover nests have full four-egg clutches and are being incubated, while a fourth pair of plovers is still laying eggs, with a full clutch expected in the next few days.

At Cape Henlopen’s Gordons Pond, one pair of piping plovers has begun incubating a nest. To minimize disturbing the federally-protected plovers, a half-mile stretch of beach between the observation towers and the Herring Point crossover was closed to the public Monday – with signs, twine and PVC stakes indicating the closure is in effect at Gordons Pond until after the beach-nesting season.

In other beachnester news:
Two American oystercatcher nests have been spotted at the Point, with adults incubating eggs. Least terns have just begun arriving and monitors are watching to see if their behavior suggests that they will set up a colony.

No oystercatchers are currently displaying nesting behavior at Gordons Pond, and it remains to be seen if least terns will choose to nest this year at Gordons.

At Delaware Seashore State Park, a clutch of three oystercatcher eggs was found on May 10 on the ocean beach between Indian River Inlet and the Indian River Life Saving Station, and is being incubated by both adults.  Fencing has been built around the nest to protect it from being inadvertently crushed or unduly disturbed by people getting too close.

For more information on beach-nesting birds and monitoring efforts, please contact Matthew Bailey at 302-382-4151 or email

About the piping plover
The piping plover was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1986, and the Division of Fish and Wildlife is responsible for its protection in Delaware. Under a binding agreement and subsequent species management plan that DNREC made in 1990 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the federal agency with oversight of this ESA-protected species, piping plover nesting areas at Cape Henlopen State Park are closed annually to the public to protect the shorebirds from disturbance during their nesting season which usually runs from March into September. This includes the Point and smaller areas around Gordon’s Pond. The closure has been successful, increasing the number of piping plover nesting pairs from a low of two pairs to a high of nine pairs, and must include feeding habitat as well as nesting areas. Piping plovers feed on small invertebrates that inhabit the intertidal zone near their nesting territories. Chicks are not fed by their parents, but rather are led to the shoreline to forage while the adults keep watch for potential threats. Allowing pedestrian traffic in the intertidal zone adjoining nesting areas would disturb the vital link between nesting and foraging habitat and risk adverse stress or mortality to the chicks.

Vol. 45, No. 167

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