Piping Plover - Nest, Eggs, Chicks


  • Semi-colonial nesters
  • Nests often found in Least Tern colonies
  • Typically lay 4 eggs in a small cup-like depression on the ground
  • Line nest with small pebbles
  • Place eggs with the narrow ends pointing to the center of the nest
  • May lay several clutches if nest is destroyed
  • Only raise one brood per season
  • Male and female incubate the eggs


  • Well camouflaged
  • A pale buff color usually with fine black markings
  • sually uniform in size and coloration
  • Take about 28 days to hatch


  • Well camouflaged against sand and gravel
  •  Downy with white undersides, buff and grayish back and head with dark speckling, white collar around back of neck, pale orange legs, and black bill
  • Precocial which means they are relatively mature and mobile, with down and eyes open from time of hatching
  • Able to walk away from nest day of hatching
  • Forage for themselves, eating aquatic insects in the sand but parental care is provided until about 21 to 28 days
  • Able to fly at about 28 days

Defensive Behavior:

  • Adults defend their nests and chicks using a broken wing display or “feigning”
  •  Adults will make alarm calls, limp, and pretend to be injured to lead the intruder away from nest and chicks
  • Plovers nesting in Interior Least Tern colonies have the advantage of sharing defense with the more aggressive terns
  • Chicks will either lay flat, hide under a plant or stick, or run and then hide from intruders depending on their age

Nest and Chick Predators:

  • American Kestrels (Falco sparverius)
  • Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias)
  • American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
  • Owls
  • Skunks, Raccoons
  • Foxes, Coyotes
  • Cats, Dogs
  • Humans


Adult plover using a broken wing display
Adult plover using a broken wing display