Piping Plover Finds a New Home for the Holidays at the New England Aquarium

December 24, 2018
Wild Care Inc. rehabilitated a juvenile Piping Plover this past summer. The bird was evaluated, but was determined not releasable back to the wild due to a compromised wing, and an inability to fly at full range.

This Cape Cod bird has just joined a lone plover and other shoreline bird species in the New England Aquarium’s permanent “Shorebird Exhibit”. The plover will serve as an ambassador for shorebirds, and provide New England Aquarium (NEAQ) visitors with education and inspiration for many years to come.

THE STORY: On June 8th, 2018, four Piping Plover chicks hatched from nest “RPN06A” at Race Point North beach in Provincetown, MA. These plover hatchlings foraged and grew together at Race Point for several weeks. In early July, the National Park Service (NPS) Cape Cod Shorebird Team noticed that one chick seemed smaller and less developed than its siblings. Three strong chicks from this brood fledged successfully on July 16th, but the smaller chick seemed to need more time. It is not uncommon for chicks from the same brood to grow at different rates. NPS staff continuously monitored this less developed chick with the hopes that it would gain in size. The chick continued to build up strength following the fledging (beginning to fly) of its siblings. During this time, the remaining RPN06A chick was not all alone – it spent some time with several other piping plover chicks from different broods, and gained protection from other adult plovers. Later, NPS staff observed a large size difference in one of the chick’s wings. It was apparent that the chick could only fly a short distance above the ground and only for a few meters at a time. NPS recognized that its inability to fly would prevent the bird from successfully migrating in the winter months.

AN IMPORTANT SPECIES: The Piping Plover is a species listed as threatened in Massachusetts, under the Endangered Species Act. Each individual is critically important to the recovery of the species. NPS coordinated with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Wild Care, on options in responding to the situation. Collectively, these partners decided that the best course of action was to first assess the bird’s condition. The NPS Cape Cod Shorebird Team captured the bird safely, and quickly transferred it to Wild Care’s exceptional staff for evaluation. An X-ray revealed that the bird was injured as a young chick and therefore the wing did not develop properly; so, it would never fly at full range. Wild Care consulted with Priya Patel, Veterinarian at NEWC’s Birdsey Cape Wildlife Center for an expert opinion. It was determined that with a compromised wing, this bird would not be able to make the long winter trip south.

A NEW HOME: The staff at Wild Care and USFWS worked together to find the chick a new, long-term home. The NEAQ in Boston, Massachusetts agreed to be that home. The plover was placed in an evaluation quarantine at the New England Aquarium Quincy Care Center on September 18th, and was introduced into their permanent Shorebird Exhibit late morning on December 11th…

FROM NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM: “The introduction was uneventful, which was the best news! The other birds barely paid attention to the new one. The plover looked a bit nervous at first and did a bit of scampering about the exhibit, with a lot of head-bobbing”. Stated Steve Spina, Assistant Curator at The New England Aquarium, “It eventually seemed to settle down and get it’s bearings, and joined the group of shorebirds congregated in the rear. The picture shows our now two Piping Plovers, side by side, hopefully making friends with one another. The size difference was striking as I was used to seeing the young bird alone in our quarantine enclosure. We’re all very excited to have this new resident!”.

FROM WILD CARE: “Wild Care is thrilled to have found a forever home for this sweet, yet very resilient Piping Plover,” states Stephanie Ellis, Wild Care Executive Director. It is a bit unnerving working with a Threatened species – like working with a feathered celebrity! I am really proud of my staff for the amazing job they did rehabilitating this plover. They set the bird up with a shoreline habitat in its holding pen. The plover was monitored with a remote camera 24 hours a day, to ensure that it was eating and behaving normally. The bird was with us for a month, and gained quite a bit of weight in our care. I am also thrilled that this little bird will be at the New England Aquarium to live out its life. The New England Aquarium sees over 1.3 million visitors per year. The more people who can see a Piping Plover up close and learn about its behavior and habitats, means more people who can strive to reduce their impact on this delicate species, and learn to appreciate and preserve Piping Plovers for generations to come. The New England Aquarium has been incredibly thorough in ensuring that the plover is healthy, and in a safe and beautiful permanent habitat at the aquarium. We could not be more pleased.”

Full Story and more photos also via Cape Cod Today.

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