Piping plover (Charadrius melodus melodus): recovery strategy 2012

Piping Plover, melodus subspecies

Species at Risk Act
Recovery Strategy Series

Photo: Piping Plover

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

Document Information

Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus melodus) in Canada - 2012

Cover of publication: Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus melodus) in Canada - 2012

Piping Plover, melodussubspecies

Photo: Piping Plover

Recommended citation:

Environment Canada. 2012. Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus melodus) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. v + 29 pp.

For copies of the recovery strategy, or for additional information on species at risk, including COSEWIC Status Reports, residence descriptions, action plans, and other related recovery documents, please visit the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry.

Cover illustration: John Chardine © 2010

Également disponible en français sous le titre
« Programme de rétablissement du Pluvier siffleur
(Charadrius melodus melodus) au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2012. All rights reserved.
ISBN 978-1-100-20168-9
Catalogue no. En3-4/9-2012E-PDF

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The federal, provincial, and territorial government signatories under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk (1996) agreed to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada. Under the Species at Risk Act (S.C. 2002, c.29) (SARA), the federal competent ministers are responsible for the preparation of recovery strategies for listed Extirpated, Endangered, and Threatened species and are required to report on progress within five years.

The Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency are the competent ministers for the recovery of the Piping Plover, melodus subspecies and have prepared this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. It has been prepared in cooperation with the Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Québec, also Aboriginal groups and the Eastern Canadian Piping Plover Recovery Team, as per section 39(1) of SARA.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada and the Parks Canada Agency, or any other jurisdiction alone. All Canadians are invited to join in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Piping Plover, melodus subspecies and Canadian society as a whole.

This recovery strategy will be followed by one or more action plans that will provide information on recovery measures to be taken by Environment Canada and the Parks Canada Agency and other jurisdictions and/or organizations involved in the conservation of the species. Implementation of this strategy is subject to appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints of the participating jurisdictions and organizations.

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This strategy was developed by the Atlantic Species at Risk Recovery Unit of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, with support from the Canadian Wildlife Service's Quebec Region and much thoughtful input and advice from the Eastern Canadian Piping Plover Recovery Team.

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Executive Summary

The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus melodus) is listed as Endangered in Canada under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act and as Threatened in the United States under provisions of the United States Endangered Species Act. Within Canada, the melodus subspecies occurs in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Québec. The latest North American population estimate for C. m. melodus obtained through the 2006 International Piping Plover Census consisted of 3323 adults, of which 460 (14%) were located in Canada (Goossen and Amirault-Langlais 2009). Despite major conservation efforts implemented across the subspecies' range, ongoing threats from habitat loss and degradation, predation, and human disturbance continue to create challenges in meeting population objectives. In many jurisdictions the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) is now acknowledged as being management-dependent.

The recovery of the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) is deemed feasible.

The short-term population objectives are to achieve and maintain a regional population of 255 pairs and an annual productivity of 1.65 chicks fledged per territorial pair. Long-term, the objectives are to increase the population to 310 pairs distributed across eastern Canada as follows: New Brunswick--105, Newfoundland and Labrador --30, Nova Scotia--60, Prince Edward Island--60, and Québec--55. In its Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), Atlantic Coast Population, Revised Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established a population objective of 800 adults (400 pairs) for the four Atlantic Provinces and Québec. Should the long-term population objective of this recovery strategy of 620 adults be met, the feasibility of meeting this larger population objective will be evaluated, in conjunction with an assessment of carrying capacity and habitat availability.

The following broad strategies are recommended to address threats to the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies): Ensure enough suitable habitat to meet population objectives, Reduce predation, Reduce human disturbance, Minimize impacts of adverse weather conditions, Minimize impacts of poorly understood mortality factors, Address key knowledge gaps to recovery, and Monitor the population.

Critical habitat is fully identified in this strategy. Any site with suitable habitat (defined in the key habitat attributes section) occupied by at least one nesting pair of Piping Plovers (melodus subspecies) in at least one year since 1991 (the year of first complete survey coverage) is critical habitat under the Species at Risk Act.

One action plan will be developed to address the requirements of the Species at Risk Act and will be completed within two years of the final version of this recovery strategy being posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

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Recovery Feasibility Summary

The recovery of the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) is deemed feasible, based on the four criteria outlined by the Government of Canada (2009). The following four questions were considered:

  1. Individuals of the wildlife species that are capable of reproduction are available now or in the foreseeable future to sustain the population or improve its abundance. Yes.
  2. Sufficient suitable habitat is available to support the species or could be made available through habitat management or restoration. Yes.
  3. The primary threats to the species or its habitat (including threats outside Canada) can be avoided or mitigated. Yes.
  4. Recovery techniques exist to achieve the population and distribution objectives or can be expected to be developed within a reasonable timeframe. Yes.

Eastern Canadian agencies use management approaches similar to those in other jurisdictions and these techniques have resulted in tremendous population increases elsewhere. During the period 1991-2006, the population on the U.S. Atlantic coast increased by 95% and the population of the circumcinctus subspecies in the Great Lakes increased by 175%. To achieve the recommended recovery objectives would require a 19% increase from 2008 population levels. The success of similar programs elsewhere suggests that such a population increase is feasible. Although conservation efforts elsewhere have achieved positive results, the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) is now considered to be management-dependent on the Atlantic coast (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996).

Formal and informal partnerships with industry, scientists, municipal governments, federal/provincial governments, conservation organizations, property owners, and the public will help achieve the long-term conservation and recovery of the Piping Plover (melodus subpecies).

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1. COSEWIC Species Assessment Information

Date of Assessment: May 2001

Common Name (population): Piping Plover melodus subspecies

Scientific Name: Charadrius melodus melodus

COSEWIC Status: Endangered

Reason for designation: The number of individuals of this subspecies breeding in Canada is small. The quality of nesting habitat is decreasing, and predation and other disturbances limit reproductive success. No significant increase in numbers of breeding pairs has resulted despite strong conservation initiatives.

Canadian Occurrence: Québec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island

COSEWIC Status History: The species was considered a single unit and designated Threatened in April 1978. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in April 1985. In May 2001, the species was re-examined and split into two groups according to subspecies. The melodus subspecies was designated Endangered in May 2001.

2. Species Status Information

The Piping Plover (melodussubspecies) is listed as Endangered in Canada under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. The subspecies also occurs along the Atlantic coast of the United States, where it is listed as Threatened under the United States’ Endangered Species Act. The Piping Plover is listed as Endangered under provincial legislation in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, and is listed as Threatened under provincial legislation in Québec. Prince Edward Island is currently reviewing the status of the species.

Table 1. Conservation ranks for the Piping Plover (melodussubspecies)
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Global (G) Rank National (N) Rank Sub-national (S) Rank COSEWIC Status
Near Threatened G3
(very rare and local throughout its range)
(nationally rare breeder)
Breeding occurrences:
Nova Scotia: S1B (especially vulnerable to extirpation)
Insular Newfoundland: S1B
Prince Edward Island: S1B
New Brunswick: S2B (may be vulnerable to extirpation)

Despite active conservation programs throughout eastern Canada, there was a decline in regional numbers during the four international census time period from 1991 to 2006 (−10%).

A banding research program was conducted in eastern Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and Québec) from 1998 to 2003 to obtain the information required to calculate demographic parameters for the regional population. Population modelling of this data indicated interesting trends and predictions (Calvert 2004). Although the Gulf of St. Lawrence subpopulation includes a larger total number of birds, the model suggested that this subpopulation is currently in decline (−3.5% per year). This subpopulation was predicted to decrease from its current level “to only about 100 adults within 40 years”. Conversely, the southern Nova Scotia subpopulation was predicted to remain stable or to increase slowly (+0.5% per year). This subpopulation was therefore projected to increase slowly over time. However, caution should be used when interpreting these results. It was not possible to state with certainty whether either of the subpopulations was increasing, decreasing, or stable. The demographic parameters used in the development of the models were based on the results of the banding study, which was of relatively short duration and may have under-represented some parts of the range (particularly remote areas). Furthermore, population data show the Gulf of St. Lawrence subpopulation has increased while the southern Nova Scotia group has declined since the end of the banding study.

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3. Species Information

3.1 Species Description

The Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus, is a small, stocky shorebird that depends on its cryptic coloration (adults, chicks, and eggs) for defence from predators. The dorsal plumage is light grey to pale brown, resembling the colour of dry sand. The ventral plumage is white. The short bill is orange with a black tip. Adults weigh 43-63 g and have a total body length of 17-18 cm. Piping Plovers are capable of breeding at one year of age.

The Piping Plover nests only in North America. Two populations, each with subspecies status, exist within Canada: the eastern Canada population (melodussubspecies) and the Prairie and Great Lakes population (circumcinctus subspecies). This recovery strategy applies only to the Charadrius melodus melodus subspecies (Figure 1).

Piping Plovers (melodussubspecies) normally arrive on the nesting grounds from the end of March to early May. Young may hatch starting in late May or early June onwards, depending on when nesting was initiated. Nest initiation may occur any time after the birds arrive until mid-July. Nests are only occasionally initiated after this time. Migration back to the wintering grounds begins in early to mid-July. The bulk of the population has left Canada by early September.

Adults normally produce a clutch of four eggs; however, fewer eggs may be produced, often with re-nesting attempts. Five-egg clutches are occasionally produced. Young hatch after 26 to 28 days of incubation and are able to fly within 25 to 28 days of hatching. The chicks are precocial and usually leave the nest within hours of hatching. Young plovers forage independently shortly after leaving the nest. One brood is normally produced per year; however, re-nesting is possible if a clutch is lost. The normal lifespan of birds once they reach adulthood is 8-11 years (Haig 1992).

There appear to be two discrete subpopulations or groups of C. m. melodus - one located in southern Nova Scotia and another in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Canadian Wildlife Service – Atlantic Region, unpublished data). There is an indication of limited genetic exchange between the U.S. Atlantic coast subpopulation and the Gulf of St. Lawrence group; however, at this time the southern Nova Scotia group appears to be isolated from both areas. Survival rates of adults were similar for the two subpopulations, at 72% for the Gulf of St. Lawrence and 73% for southern Nova Scotia (Calvert 2004). However, post-fledging survival rates of juvenile birds were lower for the Gulf of St. Lawrence (34%) than for southern Nova Scotia (53%). Although adult survival rates were similar to those calculated for the U.S. Atlantic coast population (75%), juvenile survival rates for the Gulf of St. Lawrence population were considerably lower than the 48% calculated for Massachusetts, which is the closest neighbouring population (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996).

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3.2 Population and Distribution

The global breeding population of the Piping Plover (C. melodus) was estimated at 8092 during the 2006 International Piping Plover Census (Elliott-Smith et al. 2009). During the 2006 census, the Canadian population of C. m. melodus was estimated at 460 adults (Goossen and Amirault-Langlais 2009) or 21% of the total national nesting population of C. m. melodus and C. m. circumcinctus (2164) and 6% of the total North American population of C. m. melodus and C. m. circumcinctus (Elliott-Smith et al. 2009). Annual population counts are now conducted routinely in most areas of eastern Canada. In 2008, the adult population of the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) was estimated at approximately 511 adults, including 250 breeding pairs (end of year count).

The Piping Plover (melodussubspecies) nests in coastal areas of Newfoundland (southwest coast), Québec (Magdalen Islands), Nova Scotia (southern Atlantic coast, a few beaches along the Northumberland Strait, and Cape Breton Island), Prince Edward Island (along the Gulf of St. Lawrence coast), and New Brunswick (the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northumberland Strait coast). Figure 1presents the sites identified as critical habitat for the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies), which correspond to the current known nesting distribution in eastern Canada.

The Piping Plover (melodussubspecies) winters along the southern Atlantic coast of the United States and in the Caribbean. Plovers banded in eastern Canada have been observed during the winter in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba (Gratto-Trevor pers com and Amirault-Langlais, in prep.).

Figure 1. Sites in eastern Canada identified as critical habitat for the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies)

Figure 1 shows sites in eastern Canada identified as critical habitat for the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies), which correspond to their nesting areas. Most of the sites are found along the coastal areas of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the Magdalen Islands and a few sites on the south shore of Newfoundland.

3.3 Needs of the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies)

The Piping Plover requires specific habitats to successfully achieve nesting, brood-rearing, feeding, and overwintering. Habitat requirements for staging and migration are not well understood, but there appears to be more flexibility in use of habitats during those times of the year.

General habitat description

The Piping Plover (melodussubspecies) nests on wide sand, gravel, or cobble beaches, barrier island sandspits, or peninsulas in marine coastal areas. Early successional habitat, most often free of dense vegetation, is preferred for nest sites. Feeding areas must be locally available so flightless chicks can gain access to them. A more complete description of habitat requirements can be found in the Piping Plover status report (Boyne 2001).

The location and specific characteristics of nesting beaches have been well documented in eastern Canada (Amirault et al. 1997; Waddell 2000; Boates et al. 1994). The specific characteristics of nesting beaches and their associated role in feeding, brood-rearing, and staging are discussed in detail below.

Ecological processes

The Piping Plover (melodussubspecies) depends on the maintenance of early successional habitat, characterized by open sand, pebble, or gravel areas interspersed with shells and with sparse or little vegetation for successful nesting. Natural ecological processes such as ice scour, storms, and extreme high tides promote the maintenance of habitat in early succession. The tips of sandspits or sites near channels are particularly vulnerable to the extreme natural events that keep areas free of vegetation and redistribute nesting substrate onto beach areas. These areas tend to be preferred nesting sites. The maintenance of natural ecological processes along coastal areas is essential to the protection of nesting areas.

Nesting habitat

Piping Plover nesting habitat refers to the habitat component where nest sites are located. The Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) generally selects the widest section of a beach for nesting. Plovers rarely nest in areas of pure sand, but instead select sandy areas with sparse vegetation or sufficient gravel, pebble, cobble, shell fragments, wrack (dry algae normally deposited by storms or by tidal or wave action above the mean high tide mark), or other debris to provide camouflage for incubating birds and to enable nests to be hidden from predators (Flemming et al. 1992). The level of human disturbance may influence the suitability of sites.

Sites overwashed by winter storms are often chosen for nesting because they are maintained in an early stage of beach succession. Typical nesting habitat is often located on mainland beaches or barrier islands, sandspits, and sand bar beaches or other areas exhibiting suitable habitat characteristics. These habitats are important since they allow adults and young access to feeding sites along lagoons or bays, where rich food resources are located.

Brood-rearing habitat

Piping Plover brood-rearing habitat refers to the habitat component where adult plovers normally lead young plovers after hatching. Brood-rearing habitat provides the necessary elements for feeding; refuge from high tides; locations where the birds can hide from human disturbance or predators; and shelter from harsh weather (wind, rain) (shelter supplements brooding by adults).

Brood-rearing habitat must be present within an appropriate distance of nesting sites since flightless young must be able to gain access to these areas. Broods are known to move a considerable distance from their nest location. Observations from various studies in the United States show that broods may move several hundred metres from the nest location (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996). Preliminary information suggests that this is also the case in eastern Canada (Amirault-Langlais and Shaffer, unpubl. data). The mean distance from nests for 25 broods was 165 m (minimum 0 m from the nest site; maximum 702.7 m). Younger broods can be expected to be located in closer proximity to the nest site than older juveniles, which are more mobile and may move up to several kilometres away from the nest site to gain access to prime feeding areas. Feeding areas for young are also prime feeding areas used by adults (for more detail, see under Feeding habitat). Enhanced survival rates of young plovers have been found in areas with access to interior or bayside flats (Loegering and Fraser 1995). Access to these important feeding sites are created by wash-throughs that sometimes occur across barrier beaches during winter storms.

Other important components of brood-rearing habitat are pieces of driftwood, wrack, large rocks, and other objects which may provide shelter from the rain, wind, and blowing sand. These structures may also be used by adult plovers for the same purpose. Young plovers rely on brooding by adult birds for warmth during cold and shelter from heat; however, older juveniles that spend less time being brooded, may increasingly utilize these habitat components for shelter. Young plovers also rely on sparsely vegetated dunes as refuges during high tides or to escape from potential predators and human disturbance. Densely vegetated dunes are ineffective since young birds have limited mobility and cannot penetrate these areas.

Feeding habitat

Piping Plover feeding habitat refers to the habitat component used by adult and young for feeding purposes.

Foraging habitat for flightless young overlaps with brood-rearing and adult feeding areas. Feeding sites for young must be located within walking distance of the nest site because young are flightless until approximately 25 days of age. Juvenile Piping Plovers (melodus subspecies) feed in marine and bayside intertidal zones above the mean high water mark, open sand, mud flats, and algal flats. Ephemeral pools and areas of wrack are excellent feeding areas. Young birds may travel a considerable distance (in excess of several kilometres) to gain access to prime feeding areas. It is not uncommon for the brood to use many feeding sites within a nesting pair’s territory, including the nesting, brood-rearing, and feeding habitats.

Adult Piping Plovers (melodussubspecies) forage in habitats similar to those used by flightless young. Adult birds are able to gain access to foraging sites beyond the immediate nesting or brood-rearing area and are often seen flying across channels or gullies to use nearby feeding sites. Areas used by feeding plovers are often used by large numbers of other species of shorebirds during migration, indicating an abundance of invertebrate prey.

Migration/staging habitat

Piping Plover migration/staging habitat refers to habitats which are used post-breeding in preparation for migration to wintering grounds.

Migration patterns of the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) are not well known. Small groups of plovers often congregate at nesting and non-nesting beaches. This suggests that migration may occur in stages (Boyne 2001). Since there are few beaches which are used on a regular basis by large numbers of Piping Plovers (melodussubspecies) during migration, the characteristics and significance of beaches used are difficult to determine. The availability of habitats for use during migration does not appear to be limiting since use of any particular beach during migration is sporadic, suggesting that habitat requirements at this time may be less specific.

Wintering habitat

There are no occurrences of Piping Plovers wintering in Canada. Wintering habitats are thought to be significant since the bulk of the annual life cycle is spent on the wintering grounds, fidelity to wintering sites within and between years has been demonstrated, and these areas may be of key importance to increasing adult survival.

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4. Threats

4.1 Threat Assessment

Table 2. Threat Assessment Table
Threat Category Threat Level of Concern1 Extent Occurrence Frequency Severity2 Causal Certainty3
Changes in Ecological Dynamics (Predation) Predation of adults, eggs, and young High Widespread Historic, Current, Anticipated Seasonal High High
Disturbance or Harm Recreational beach use High Widespread Historic, Current, Anticipated Seasonal High High
Disturbance or Harm Vehicles High Widespread Historic, Current, Anticipated Seasonal High High
Habitat Loss or Degradation Human disturbance High Widespread Continuous Continuous High High
Habitat Loss or Degradation Coastal development High Widespread Continuous Continuous High High
Habitat Loss or Degradation Natural processes Medium Widespread Historic,
Current, Anticipated
Continuous Moderate Medium
Habitat Loss or Degradation Oil or contaminant spills Medium Widespread Anticipated One-time High (local)
Low (range-wide)
Climate and Natural Disasters Flooding and extreme weather events Medium Widespread Historic, Current, Anticipated Seasonal Medium High
Pollution and Natural Processes Oil spills Medium Widespread Anticipated One-time High (local)
Low (range-wide)
Pollution and Natural Processes Environmental contaminants Low Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Low

1 Level of Concern: signifies that managing the threat is of (high, medium or low) concern for the recovery of the species, consistent with the population and distribution objectives. This criterion considers the assessment of all the information in the table).

2 Severity: reflects the population-level effect (High: very large population-level effect, Moderate, Low, Unknown).

3 Causal certainty: reflects the degree of evidence that is known for the threat (High: available evidence strongly links the threat to stresses on population viability; Medium: there is a correlation between the threat and population viability e.g. expert opinion; Low: the threat is assumed or plausible).

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4.2 Description of Threats

Factors which directly threaten the survival of individuals include habitat loss and degradation; predation; human disturbance in nesting habitat; and adverse weather conditions during nesting, overwintering, and migration (hurricanes, storm surges, extreme high tides, storms, periods of severe cold weather and rain). The role of oil spills, toxic chemicals and injury at a population level are not clearly understood at this time. The threats assessment is based on the population’s entire range. The threats may not be distributed equally across the range and the threat level may vary within jurisdictions.

Changes in Ecological Dynamics (Predation)

Predation has been identified as one of the most important factors limiting populations across the North American breeding range (Goossen et al. 2002). Current predation rates appear to be higher than they were in the past. A study of 174 nests on Long Island between 1937 and 1958 reported 91% hatching success (Wilcox 1959). No predator control measures were taken during this study. Current estimates from eastern Canada suggest that hatching success is less than 55% (Amirault-Langlais, unpubl. data). There are many known or suspected predators of Piping Plover adults, chicks, and eggs, including American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Common Raven (Corvus corax), gulls (Larus spp.), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Raccoon (Procyon lotor), Coyote (Canis latrans), Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis), Short-tailed Weasel (Mustela erminea), American Mink (Neovison vison), domestic dogs, and feral cats. Human activities and land use practices have resulted in artificially high predator populations (Raithel 1984 in Melvin et al. 1991). These predators may hunt or opportunistically take adult Piping Plovers, chicks, or eggs. Increasing predation pressure can have a negative impact on populations of the Piping Plover (Burger 1987; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996).

Disturbance or Harm

Many human activities result in disturbance to Piping Plovers (melodus subspecies). Disturbance generally causes changes in normal nesting or feeding behaviour. Human-related disturbance factors include pedestrian traffic; unleashed pets; camping and campfires; sunbathing; collection of driftwood, shells or wrack; horseback riding; fishing; kite flying; kite buggying; fireworks; and motorized vehicle traffic (cars, trucks, and off-road and all-terrain vehicles).

The degree of severity, frequency of disturbance, and proximity to nest sites and feeding areas within any specific component of the habitat will dictate how plovers are affected. Severe disturbance (vehicular traffic on nesting beaches and brood-rearing and foraging habitat, unleashed pets, horseback riding, fireworks, camping and campfires, kite buggying) increases the likelihood of nesting failure, could potentially result in adult and young mortality, and may compromise nest site selection. Moderate and minor disturbance factors (walking, swimming, sunbathing, collecting driftwood or other natural beach components, fishing, flying kites) increase the likelihood of lower productivity due to increased energy expenditures to avoid the activity or a decrease in efficiency in conducting normal activities. Even though some activities such as walking on the beach may be considered low disturbance, nests are highly camouflaged and pedestrians may inadvertently trample them. There have also been several confirmed instances of children removing chicks from nesting beaches.

Operation of off-road, all-terrain, kite buggies, or other vehicles on beaches used by plovers may result in chick mortality, destruction of the eggs or nest, and, in some cases, nest abandonment (Ryan 1996; Flemming et al. 1988; Loegering and Fraser 1995; Melvin et al. 1994). Compaction of substrate caused by vehicle traffic may reduce invertebrate abundance and therefore local prey availability (Wolcott and Wolcott 1984).

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Habitat Loss or Degradation

The habitat of the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) is threatened by:

  • human disturbance (e.g. high levels of human activity and vehicle use)

Recreational activities (e.g. kite flying, fireworks) may not always physically destroy available habitat but the level of disturbance they cause may render sites unsuitable and impair habitat function.

  • coastal development (e.g. residential or commercial developments, construction of wharves, jetties, and erosion control structures, beach cleaning)

These developments may physically destroy or alter the function of a site and render it unsuitable for nesting. Beach cleaning removes important components of plover habitat such as wrack and natural debris that provide feeding areas and shelter from inclement weather.

  • natural processes (e.g. coastal erosion, sea-level rise, catastrophic weather events, vegetation encroachment)

Catastrophic weather events (hurricanes, flooding) may cause localized erosion and thereby loss of habitat and potentially direct loss of adults and chicks. Conversely, when unimpeded by coastal development or activities required for maintenance of infrastructures, severe weather events may create new habitat through accretion/deposition; severe weather may also maintain the early successional stage habitat required for successful nesting. It is unclear what impact climate change will have on the habitat of the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies).

  • oil or contaminant spills

Oil spills not only have the potential to impact the birds and their habitat but also their invertebrate prey. The greatest impact may be experienced by flightless chicks which are unable to access alternative foraging grounds.

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Climate and Natural Disasters

Extreme high tides may flood nests above the mean high water mark. This can result in considerable nest loss if high tides coincide with the peak nesting season. Long periods of intense rain following hatching can decrease chick survival rates. Adverse weather conditions during overwintering and migration may also affect survival. Hurricanes, periods of cold weather, and storms could contribute to adult mortality.

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Pollution and Natural Processes

Oil spills and oil discharge from bilge water pose a risk to foraging adults and chicks. Oil affects birds through physical contact, physiological changes, and acute toxic poisoning. Oiled birds may be affected by the disruption in the natural water-repellency of feathers, affecting their thermo-regulatory capacity (Leighton 1994), or there may be reduced hatching success if oil is transferred to the eggs during incubation (McGill and Richmond 1979; Lewis and Malecki 1984). Ingestion of toxic compounds while preening also commonly occurs. Ingested toxins can lead to severe internal damage and organ failure (Peakall et al. 1983). Three cases of oiled adult Piping Plovers (melodus subspecies) have been recorded in Canada (Amirault-Langlais et al. 2007). Several oil spills have affected Piping Plovers (melodus subspecies) in the United States. There is a similar risk along the coastline in Canada. 

Limited information is available on the presence and impacts of toxins on the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) in Canada. Analyses of unhatched eggs collected in two locations have indicated that only trace levels of toxic chemicals are present in eastern Canada (P. Laporte, unpubl. data; N. Burgess, pers. comm.). Although available information suggests that toxins do not currently pose a threat to Piping Plovers (melodus subspecies), monitoring should be periodically undertaken to identify potential problems.

Injuries to feet and legs are occasionally observed, presumably due to the fact that shorebirds tend to walk a large proportion of the time. Wing injuries are less frequently observed. Dogs are suspected to have been responsible for some cases of adult plovers with broken wings.

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5. Population and Distribution Objectives

Short-term population objective 1

Achieve and maintain a minimum of 255 pairs of Piping Plover (melodus subspecies). This reflects maintenance of the regional population at 1991 International Piping Plover Census levels.

Short-term population objective 2

Achieve and maintain an annual productivity of at least 1.65 chicks fledged per territorial pair. This is the minimum productivity rate that has been calculated to maintain the population at its current level (Calvert 2004).

Long-term population and distribution objectives

Increase the population to 310 pairsto be achieved and maintained in the long term (during three consecutive international censuses, which occur every five years). Population objectives for each province (identified in Table 3) are based on the maximum number of pairs documented on nesting beaches in recent years and closely approximate historical estimates (eg. Cairns and McLaren 1980).

In its Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), Atlantic Coast Population, Revised Recovery Plan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established a population objective of 800 adults (400 pairs) for the four Atlantic Provinces and Québec. Should the long-term population objective of this recovery strategy of 310 pairs be met, the feasibility of meeting this larger population objective will be evaluated, in conjunction with an assessment of carrying capacity and habitat availability.

Table 3. Population objectives (end of year count) within eastern Canadian jurisdictions
Province Population objective (pairs) 2008 population (pairs) Required to meet population objective (pairs)
New Brunswick 105 86 +19
Newfoundland and Labrador 30 27 +3
Nova Scotia 60 44 + 16
Prince Edward Island 60 49 + 11
Québec 55 44 +11
Total 310 250 + 60

Note: Jurisdictional objectives are subject to reinterpretation based on evaluation of carrying capacity. In order to ensure that population recovery is maintained, conservation measures must be sustained once the jurisdictional objectives have been achieved. Partitioning of populations objectives amongst provinces may be warranted based on factors such as response to recovery measures or regionally unique biological or genetic characteristics. Such refinements will be made where supported by population research, monitoring, and evaluation.

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6. Broad Strategies and General Approaches to Meet Objectives

6.1 Actions Already Completed or Currently Underway

Recovery programs for the Piping Plover were initiated in 1985, with many conservation techniques having been developed and implemented since this time to address human-induced and natural threats. A National Recovery Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) (Goossen et. al. 2002) outlining the approach recommended to recover the population was published in 2002. That recovery plan expired in 2004. Approaches to conservation that have been implemented to help achieve the recovery objectives include public education; “guardian” programs and volunteer and landowner involvement in protecting nesting plovers; protection of key nesting habitats through acquisition and minimizing human disturbance (symbolic fencing, signage, beach closures in three National Parks of Canada); reduction of predation (predator exclosures, beach clean-up programs, litter management, and localized predator management); increased enforcement of legislation prohibiting the use of vehicles in coastal areas; research on factors affecting the species and its habitat, including the wintering grounds; the discouragement of beach developments; and population monitoring.

Recent federal and provincial cooperation for endangered species conservation via legislation and other measures has enhanced efforts to protect the subspecies and its habitat. The Species at Risk Act, proclaimed in 2003, ensures the protection of individuals and the residence of the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) throughout Canada and will enable the protection of its critical habitat on federal lands once it has been identified. All eastern Canadian provinces now also have legislation to identify and protect species at risk and their habitat. The Piping Plover is listed as Endangered under provincial legislation in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, and is listed as Threatened under provincial legislation in Québec. The Province of Prince Edward Island is currently reviewing the status of species to establish its list of species at risk.

Substantive involvement on the part of many agencies occurs every year to protect the species. The Eastern Canadian Piping Plover Recovery Team and Working Group meet annually to discuss progress made during the previous year and to plan future efforts. The team includes representatives from the Canadian Wildlife Service (Atlantic and Québec regions) of Environment Canada, Parks Canada, the five provincial wildlife agencies, and non-governmental organizations. Several non-governmental organizations have had much success in protecting sensitive coastal features and the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies): Species at Risk – Nature NB (northeastern New Brunswick) and Irving Eco-Centre – La Dune de Bouctouche (southeastern New Brunswick); Codroy Valley Area Development Association (Newfoundland and Labrador); Bird Studies Canada, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife Commission Inc., Halifax Field Naturalists, and the Nova Scotia Bird Society (Nova Scotia); Island Nature Trust (Prince Edward Island); and Attention FragÎles of the Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Québec).

Environmental assessment reviews of projects that may pose a risk to the Piping Plover (melodussubspecies) are conducted frequently. Identification of measures to mitigate potential negative impacts of projects has been an important activity to ensure the maintenance of habitat. Measures are recommended that ensure the risk to nesting plovers is eliminated or reduced, while also addressing public safety issues.

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6.2 Strategic Direction for Recovery

Table 4. Recovery Planning Table
Threat or Limitation Priority Broad Strategy to Recovery General Description of Research and Management Approaches
Habitat loss or degradation High Ensure enough suitable habitat to meet population objectives
  • Address plovers in comprehensive coastal planning and management strategies
  • Protect habitat
  • Outreach and Stewardship
  • Consider plovers in environmental assessments
  • Enhance habitat
Changes in ecological dynamics or natural processes High Reduce predation
  • Waste management
  • Appropriate use of exclosures and other recovery techniques
  • Predator management
Disturbance or harm High Reduce human disturbance
  • Outreach and Stewardship
  • Compliance promotion
Natural disasters Low Minimize impacts of adverse weather
  • Maintain habitat
  • Mitigate nest flooding
Natural process
Disturbance or harm
Medium/Low Minimize impacts of poorly understood mortality factors
  • Oil spill contingency planning
  • Remain vigilant for population-level threats
  • Rehabilitate injured/ill plovers
Knowledge gaps Medium/High Address key knowledge gaps to recovery
  • Research
  • Form and maintain partnerships
  • Evaluate environmental assessments
Population size and distribution information gaps High Monitor the population
  • Count adults
  • Measure productivity
  • Evaluate habitat

6.3 Narrative to Support the Recovery Planning Table

The following broad strategies and approaches are recommended to address the threats described in section 4.

Ensure enough suitable habitat to meet population objectives

Proper assessment and evaluation of projects undertaken in the coastal zone will ensure the continued availability of suitable coastal habitats required for nesting, successful brood-rearing, staging, migration, and overwintering. Inclusion of Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) habitat requirements in coastal zone planning processes could help ensure that natural habitats are safeguarded and the integrity of coastal processes is maintained over the long term. Within coastal zone planning, activities which are deemed to have an adverse impact on Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) habitat should be controlled to the extent possible. Environmental assessment project reviews should consider potential changes in habitat related to climate change so that Piping Plover habitat requirements are taken into account. Increased compliance promotion for laws, regulations, and policies to protect the coastal zone is required.

The review of project proposals through federal and provincial governments, local planning authorities, and appropriate provincial agencies charged with regulating and overseeing environmental assessments in coastal areas should always consider the potential for interactions with the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) and its habitat. Attention should be given to any project or related activity which could result in 1) the loss or degradation of habitat, 2) the introduction and proliferation of predators 3) human disturbance, and 4) oil spills. Multiple projects and activities may have cumulative effects that are undetectable in the short term. 

Through development and application of best practices and environmental assessment processes, project alternatives should be identified, potential impacts avoided or minimized, uncertainties investigated, impact predictions verified, and mitigation effectiveness tested; taking into account the goals, objectives, and conservation measures set out in the recovery strategy. Monitoring of effects and follow-up programs should be undertaken by personnel experienced with the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies), and should be sensitive enough to detect subtle cumulative effects.

Development of programs to engage landowners in planning and implementation of habitat protection measures will be a key element for ensuring effective long-term protection for coastal habitats. This will ensure the maintenance of natural habitat features to make species recovery possible.

Reduce predation

Predator management will include the use of short-term techniques and by development of long-term solutions to address the problem of elevated levels of predator populations. The usefulness of techniques such as electric fencing and predator aversion should be investigated as potential short-term solutions to localized predator problems. Maintaining dialogue with management agencies elsewhere may result in the identification of other potential control programs. Long-term solutions for managing predator populations, including identification of effective waste management practices, may be integrated into the development of coastal zone planning strategies. Attention to predators in environmental assessment reviews will help curb the proliferation of predators, most notably those related to agricultural projects, food and fish processing plants, and mink farms. These reviews will recommend measures that will result in less favourable conditions for predators.

Reduce human disturbance

Human disturbance will be reduced in critical habitat designated under the Species at Risk Act during the nesting and chick-rearing season. This will be achieved with stewardship and beach guardian programs and education and outreach programs and by implementing restrictions on certain types of beach activities for the period from the establishment of nesting territories until chicks have fledged. Other tools have been used successfully in other parts of the species’ range to mitigate threats from human disturbance, predation and flooding (e.g. nest and chick translocation, sand bagging of nests, captive rearing of young from viable but abandoned nests). These techniques should be evaluated to determine if they may be used to enhance the potential for recovery of the species.

Increased compliance promotion for prohibitions against vehicular use of beaches will be necessary to achieve the desired objectives. Better coastal land use planning and practices will ensure that some areas are maintained with little human presence and therefore free from human disturbance. Environmental assessments could provide input on proposed activities and reduce potential negative impacts. Habitat securement should be pursued wherever feasible.

Minimize impacts of adverse weather conditions

Long-term coastal planning processes should result in the maintenance of habitat in sufficient quantity and of sufficient quality to provide shelter for the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) during periods of adverse weather. Efforts should be undertaken to mitigate impacts of flooding on nests. Efforts to curb climate change should continue. Wherever possible, natural sea level rise should not be restricted by erosion control structures, in order to allow coastal wetlands to be re-established.

Minimize impacts of poorly understood mortality factors

Existing oil spill contingency plans should include measures for mitigating this threat to the Piping Plover. Oil spill prevention efforts should continue and be enhanced. Education and incentive programs aimed at encouraging ship and boat operators to dispose of oily bilge water at appropriate facilities should increase compliance. Increased enforcement of existing laws, including amendments to the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 that came into force in 2005, will send a strong message that dumping oil at sea is a serious offence. These efforts should help prevent the oiling of marine birds.

Threats related to toxic chemicals should be monitored as appropriate. Flame retardants have already been banned in some parts of Europe. Similar measures should be pursued in Canada if negative impacts on the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) or its habitats are suspected.

Address key knowledge gaps to recovery

In order to develop an effective and adaptive science-based recovery program, there is a need to conduct research both on nesting grounds and in wintering areas. The successful implementation of research projects to answer key questions will provide direction for recovery activities.

A collaborative approach to planning and implementing research is proposed. An impressive network of agencies and individuals is currently involved in recovery program implementation. Engaging key partners to work collaboratively to initiate and complete priority research projects will ensure that relevant and pressing questions are addressed (see Appendix B). By forming partnerships with U.S. colleagues, questions relating to wintering issues can be identified and addressed. Key research questions may be addressed by forming partnerships with organizations, universities and other research-based groups. Environmental assessment review practitioners will be encouraged to evaluate the outcome of comments provided through their review process.

Monitor the population

Monitoring is required to determine whether conservation actions being delivered are achieving desired outcomes and are resulting in population recovery. In this way, the success of management techniques can be evaluated. Productivity must also be monitored periodically so it can be compared to the productivity target established in this strategy. Productivity rates are also necessary for projecting future population trends.

Population monitoring will be conducted at least every five years as part of the International Piping Plover Census; mini-censuses and annual censuses provide useful information and should be conducted whenever possible. Ideally, productivity, calculated as the number of chicks fledged per territorial pair, should be estimated on an annual basis.

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7. Critical Habitat

7.1 Identification of the Species’ Critical Habitat


Protection of habitat is an important consideration for the recovery of the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies). Although habitat does not appear to be a limiting factor in terms of quantity, the quality of existing habitat is negatively affected by anthropogenic factors and predation. Sufficient information is available on the subspecies’ habitat requirements and distribution to identify critical habitat in this recovery strategy. An action plan will be developed to support the implementation of this strategy and will outline proposed measures to protect critical habitat.

Key habitat attributes

Piping Plovers (melodussubspecies) select the following sites: wide sand, gravel, or cobble beaches; barrier island sandspits; or peninsulas in marine coastal areas. Piping Plovers (melodus subspecies) nest in early successional habitat characterized by the lack of dense vegetation. Plover distribution frequently shifts in response to habitat changes. Beach width, substrate composition, access to local feeding areas, presence of wrack, vegetation cover, and degree of human disturbance are thought to influence selection of nesting sites. The interaction of these features may also influence site selection. Suitable habitat may be roughly approximated by the following key habitat attributes (Boyne and Amirault 1999):

  • Slope: gently sloping foredune
  • Beach width: wide stretches of beach that afford protection from flooding at normal high tide
  • Substrate: sand, gravel, or cobble, or some combination of these
  • Foredune vegetation density: sparsely vegetated or relatively free of vegetation

The area of beach considered suitable for nesting, feeding and/or cover includes the area of the coastal zone from the low water mark, the intertidal zone and up to the crest or peak of the vegetated dune (typically identified by the presence of marram/beach grass or other dune vegetation). This could include habitat managed for the benefit of the species. Although these are the most common habitat parameters, the subspecies will occasionally nest in non-traditional habitats such as dredge spoils or in gravel parking areas.

Habitat required for feeding and brood-rearing is generally located in close proximity to nesting sites. Piping Plovers (melodus subspecies) may use the entire beach area from the intertidal zone to the toe of the foredune. Microhabitat features such as the presence of wrack, driftwood, and ephemeral pools enhance habitat quality by providing feeding opportunities and shelter. The entire beach area from the low water mark and the intertidal zone up to the line of vegetation (marram/beach grass or other vegetation) or up to the crest or peak of the vegetated dune is therefore an important component of critical habitat. Any anthropogenic structure (e.g., wharves, utility poles) not possessing the characteristics of suitable habitat identified above is not identified as critical habitat.

Criteria for identification of critical habitat

The population objectives have not been met; therefore, any site with suitable habitat (defined in the key habitat attributes section) occupied by at least one nesting pair of Piping Plovers (melodus subspecies) in at least one year since 1991 (the year of first complete survey coverage) is critical habitat under the Species at Risk Act. The complete list of sites in eastern Canada that currently meet these criteria, and are therefore critical habitat under the Species at Risk Act, is in Appendix C.

Additional sites

Piping Plovers (melodussubspecies) frequently occupy new sites in response to creation of habitat by winter storms, ice scour, tidal surges, and other natural or anthropogenic events. Appendix C will be updated if new sites are occupied by nesting pairs.

Furthermore, sites that do not meet the criteria for critical habitat but are suitable (defined in the key habitat attributes section) could be considered critical habitat in the future if carrying capacity determines that protection of additional habitat is necessary to meet population objectives.

Nests in non-critical habitat

Nests in non-traditional habitats, such as parking lots, dredge spoils, or sites with steep embankments, are sometimes used by nesting Piping Plovers (melodussubspecies). These sites may be less significant than typical habitat because some key feature of the habitat is often missing (e.g., access to feeding areas for chicks). In many cases, these sites will not be formally identified as critical habitat under the Species at Risk Act, although the general prohibitions under the Species at Risk Act protect the birds and their residences from destruction and harassment.

Boundaries of critical habitat

Identifying boundaries for critical habitat helps to focus conservation efforts and ensure effective enforcement. Coastal features are, however, constantly changing. The following is provided for further clarification and guidance for establishing the limits of critical habitat.

Barrier beaches/islands

The entire barrier beach or barrier beach island area (the intertidal zone from the low water mark, the sand flats, the upper beach, the dune, and associated habitats) associated with the sites presented in Appendix C is critical habitat.

Mainland beaches

The entire area of habitat suitable for nesting, feeding and cover, including the intertidal zone from the low water mark, the sand or mud flats, and upper beach that normally includes dune vegetation (marram/beach grass or other vegetation) up to the crest or peak of the vegetated dune (to facilitate recognition of the boundary line) associated with the sites presented in Appendix C is critical habitat. Breaches that cross from the ocean to bays, low back shores, landward extensions of washovers, washover fans, sand fans, runs from ponds, and pond outlets are considered extensions of the beach habitat and therefore are critical habitat. When a distinct dune crest does not exist (i.e., where a dune is not present), the landward boundary of critical habitat extends to the line of permanent non-beach vegetation (e.g. marsh or bog vegetation, shrubs, trees, farmland) or another permanent physical structure (e.g. road, bridge, culvert, river).

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7.2 Schedule of Studies to Identify Critical Habitat

The information currently available is sufficient to fully identify critical habitat under the Species at Risk Act; therefore, a schedule of studies is not required.

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7.3 Activities Likely to Result in the Destruction of Critical Habitat

Any anthropogenic activity which alters or disturbs the key habitat attributes described in section 7.1 above is considered an activity likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat. Also, any activity that reduces access to habitat by plovers or reduces the functionality of habitat for plovers is considered a destruction of critical habitat. Examples of activities which are likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat include:

  • off-road, all-terrain, or motorized vehicle use;
  • coastal development occurring in plover habitat or in other habitats closely associated with plover habitat, including construction of cottages, homes, or tourist accommodations, boardwalks, and trails;
  • beach nourishment;
  • beach stabilization;
  • sand mining and extraction;
  • beach cleaning or raking activities that remove elements of natural habitat; and
  • deliberate or accidental discharge of oil and toxic chemicals.

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8. Measuring Progress

The performance indicators presented below provide a way to define and measure progress toward achieving the population and distribution objectives.

This recovery strategy and supporting action plan will be subject to an adaptive management approach, whereby new information will be integrated on an ongoing basis in order to take advantage of new tools, knowledge, challenges, and opportunities. A five-year evaluation of the recovery strategy will be based upon the performance measures listed below.

Annually, success of the recovery strategy implementation will be measured against the following performance indicators:

  • The population is maintained at 255 pairs;
  • Regional productivity target of 1.65 chicks fledged per territorial pair is achieved

Over three consecutive international censuses, which occur every five years, success of the recovery strategy implementation will be measured against the following performance indicators

  • The population is increased to 310 pairs
  • The population distribution is unchanged from the 1991 International Census

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9. Statement on Action Plans

One action plan will be developed to address the requirements of sections 47-50 of the Species at Risk Act. Specifically, the action plan will be developed in cooperation with the Parks Canada Agency, appropriate provincial ministers, aboriginal organizations, and any other person or organization that will be directly affected by the action plan, including landowners. The action plan will provide additional information on the protection of critical habitat, outline the measures that will be taken to implement the recovery strategy, and evaluate the socio-economic costs of the action plan and the benefits to be derived from its implementation. This action plan will be completed within two years of the final version of this recovery strategy being posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

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10. References

Amirault, D.L., R. Chiasson, and S. Dietz. 1997. New Brunswick Atlas of Piping Plover Beaches. Canadian Wildlife Service unpublished report. 104 pp.

Amirault-Langlais, D.L., P.W. Thomas, and J. McKnight. 2007. Oiled Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus melodus) in eastern Canada. Waterbirds 30(2): 271-274.     

Boates, J.S., P. Austin-Smith, G. Dickie, R. Williams, and D. Sam. 1994. Nova Scotia Piping Plover Atlas. Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources unpublished report. 86 pp.

Boyne, A.W. 2001. Update COSEWIC status report on the Piping Plover Charadrius melodus in Canada. Report to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Ottawa.

Boyne, A.W., and D.L. Amirault. 1999. Habitat characteristics of piping plover nesting beaches in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. In: Higgins, K.F., M.R. Brashier, and C.D. Kruse, eds. Proceedings, piping plovers and least terns of the Great Plains and Nearby. Brookings: South Dakota State University. 132 pp.

Burger, J. 1987. Physical and social determinants of nest-site selection in piping plovers in New Jersey. Condor 89: 811-818.

Cairns, W., and I. McLaren. 1980. Status of the Piping Plover on the East Coast of North America. American Birds 34: 206-208.

Calvert, A. 2004. Demographic modeling of populations of the Piping Plover Charadrius melodus in Atlantic Canada and implications for conservation planning. Contract report to Canadian Wildlife Service (Atlantic Region), Environment Canada, Sackville, N.B. 41 pp.

Elliott-Smith, E., Haig, S.M., and B.M. Powers. 2009. Data from the 2006 International Piping Plover census: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 426, 332 p.

Flemming, S.P., R.D. Chiasson, P.C. Smith, P.J. Austin-Smith, and R.P. Bancroft. 1988. Piping Plover status in Nova Scotia related to its reproductive and behavioural responses to human disturbance. Journal of Field Ornithology 59(4): 321-330.

Flemming, S.P., R.D. Chiasson, and P.J. Austin-Smith. 1992. Piping Plover nest site selection in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Journal of Wildlife Management 56: 578-583.

Goossen, J.P., D.L. Amirault, J. Arndt, R. Bjorge, S. Boates, J. Brazil, S. Brechtel, R. Chiasson, G.N. Corbett, F.R. Curley, M. Elderkin, S.P. Flemming, W. Harris, L. Heyens, D. Hjertaas, M. Huot, B. Johnson, R. Jones, W. Koonz, P. Laporte, D. MacAskill, R.I.G. Morrison, S. Richard, F. Shaffer, C. Stewart, L. Swanson, and E. Wiltse. 2002. National Recovery Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus). National Recovery Plan No. 22. Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife. Ottawa. 47 pp.

Goossen, J.P. and D.L. Amirault-Langlais (editors). 2009. The 2006 International Piping Plover Census in Canada. Technical Report Series No. 490. Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment Canada), Edmonton, Alberta and Sackville, New Brunswick.

Government of Canada. 2009. Species at Risk Act Policies: Overarching policy framework [DRAFT]. Government of Canada, Ottawa. iv + 38pp.

Haig, S.M. 1992. Piping Plover. In The Birds of North America, No. 2 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F.Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists’ Union.

Leighton, F.A. 1994.The toxicity of petroleum oils to birds: an overview. Pages 10-22 in Wildlife and Oil Spills: Response, Research and Contingency Planning. L . Frink, I.C. Ball-Wier, and C. Smith (Editors). Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research. Wilmington, Delaware,

Lewis, S.J., and R.A. Malecki. 1984. Effects of oiling on Larid productivity and population dynamics. Auk 101: 584-592.

Loegering, J.P., and J.D. Fraser. 1995. Factors affecting Piping Plover chick survival in different brood-rearing habitats. Journal of Wildlife Management 59(4): 646-655.

McGill, P.A., and M.E. Richmond. 1979. Hatching success of Great Black-backed Gull eggs treated with oil. Bird-Banding 50: 108-113.

Melvin, S.M., C.R. Griffin, and L. MacIvor. 1991. Recovery strategies for Piping Plovers in managed coastal landscapes. Coastal Management 19: 21-34.

Melvin, S.M., A. Hecht, and C.R. Griffin. 1994. Piping Plover mortalities caused by off-road vehicles on Atlantic Coast beaches. Wildlife Society Bulletin 22: 409-414.

Peakall, D.B., D.S. Miller, and W.B. Kinter. 1983. Toxicity of crude oils and their fractions to nestling Herring Gulls. 1. Physiological and biochemical effects. Marine Environmental Research 8: 63-71.

Ryan, J. 1996. A plover on the run. A review of the effects of human disturbance and off-road vehicles on the Atlantic Coast population of the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) and other shore nesting birds. Report prepared for the Massachusetts Audubon Society. 31 pp.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 1996. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), Atlantic Coast Population, revised recovery plan. Hadley, Massachusetts. 258 pp.

Waddell, J. 2000. Prince Edward Island Piping Plover Atlas (2000 Edition). Island Nature Trust, Charlottetown, P.E.I., unpublished report. 99 pp.

Wilcox, L. 1959. A twenty year banding study of the Piping Plover. Auk 76: 129-152.

Wolcott T.G., and D.L. Wolcott. 1984. Impact of off-road vehicles on macroinvertebrates of a mid-Atlantic beach. Biological Conservation 29: 217-240.

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Appendix A: Effects on the Environment and Other Species

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts upon non-target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the strategy itself, but are also summarized below in this statement.

The implementation of this recovery strategy is not expected to result in a significant negative impact on other species that occupy Piping Plover (melodussubspecies) habitat. Past efforts have resulted in enhanced protection for sensitive coastal features. There may be benefits to Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster (Symphyotrichumlaurentianum) (currently listed under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act as Threatened) in locations where both the Piping Plover (melodus subspecies) and the plant are found. Sensitive coastal habitats will be conserved. Locally, there may be a reduction in populations of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus), American Crow, and red fox, where enhanced coastal management practices which result in more effective litter management are implemented and predator populations may become better regulated.

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Appendix B: Knowledge Gaps to Recovery

The Piping Plover (melodussubspecies) is one of the best monitored birds in eastern Canada. In most years, the majority of sites used by plovers are now monitored, and productivity information is gathered for almost all accessible occupied sites. There have been many studies conducted on the subspecies, but some knowledge gaps still exist.

The Piping Plover (melodussubspecies) would benefit from research and other efforts in, but not limited to, the following areas:

  • identification of non–breeding grounds (i.e. wintering, staging, and migration);
  • identification of threats to plovers on non-breeding grounds;
  • evaluate recovery management techniques (e.g. predator management, vegetation manipulation);
  • identification of the predators of adults, eggs, and young and an assessment of their population-level impacts;
  • the relative success of environmental assessment advice, of the accuracy of impact predictions for the purposes of environmental assessments, and of the effectiveness of recommended mitigation measures;
  • stressors in the coastal zone that affect plover habitat, with the ultimate objective of developing and implementing effective coastal planning strategies that balance human activities with the habitat requirements of plovers and include long-term solutions to the problems posed by predation;
  • analyses of population viability so the probability of population persistence can be calculated and the possible outcomes of different management scenarios can be explored;
  • conservation genetics (to determine population links within eastern Canada and with populations outside the region);
  • factors affecting reproductive success and survival;
  • accuracy of fledgling rate estimates;
  • movement of adult and young between areas;
  • the carrying capacity of habitats in eastern Canada and whether there is a need to protect or manage currently unoccupied sites in order to meet population recovery objectives;
  • compare characteristics of occupied habitat to apparently suitable but unoccupied habitat;
  • the impact of sea level rise as a result of climate change on critical habitat designated under the Species at Risk Act;
  • the influence of invertebrate population distribution and abundance on habitat selection by plovers;
  • factors affecting invertebrate prey abundance and juvenile and adult survival availability (e.g vehicles);
  • the response of plovers to disturbance, harassment, and habitat management.

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Appendix C: Sites in Eastern Canada Identified as Critical Habitat for the Piping Plover (melodus Subspecies)

Sites in Eastern Canada Identified as Critical Habitat for the Piping Plover (melodus Subspecies)
Province Beach Longitude (West) Latitude (North) Land ownership
NB Baie de Petit Pokemouche -64.725 47.690 Federal, Private
NB Bouctouche Bar -64.652 46.507 Private
NB Cap-Bateau -64.531 47.822 Private
NB Cape Jourimain NWA* -63.832 46.161 Federal Protected
NB Cedar Road South -64.902 47.394 Private, Provincial
NB Cedar Road Spit -64.907 47.374 Private
NB Chiasson Office -64.639 47.729 Private
NB Chockpish -64.720 46.606 Private
NB Côte-Sainte-Anne -64.715 46.562 Private
NB Dune de Neguac -65.001 47.247 Private, Provincial
NB Dune de Tabusintac -64.916 47.337 Private
NB École la Vague -64.698 47.705 Municipal, Private
NB Escuminac -64.820 47.019 Private, Provincial
NB Grand Lac -64.609 47.749 Provincial
NB Grand Passage -64.755 47.674 Federal, Private, Provincial
NB Grande Plaine -64.548 48.003 Private, Provincial
NB Île Pokesudie -64.796 47.819 Private
NB Johnston Point -64.094 46.172 Private
NB Lac Frye -64.519 48.021 Private
NB Little Cape -64.142 46.182 Private
NB Marks Point South -64.583 47.895 Federal, Private
NB Middle Miscou -64.472 47.967 Private, Provincial
NB Miscou Beach -64.481 47.992 Federal, Private, Provincial
NB Neguac (Spit) North -64.981 47.262 Provincial
NB North Kouchibouguac Dune KNP** -64.912 46.864 Federal Protected
NB Pigeon Hill Beach -64.502 47.884 Private, Provincial
NB Pigeon Hill Sandspit -64.489 47.901 Provincial
NB Plover Ground North -64.791 47.644 Private
NB Plover Ground South -64.809 47.614 Private
NB Pointe à Barreau -64.888 47.432 Private
NB Pointe à Bouleau -64.872 47.496 Federal, Private, Provincial
NB Pointe Sapin -64.814 46.974 Private, Provincial
NB Pointe Sapin Dune, KNP** -64.873 46.933 Federal Protected
NB Pointe Verte -64.837 47.586 Federal, Private
NB Portage Island NWA* -65.034 47.171 Federal Protected
NB Portage River Dune, KNP** -64.898 46.898 Federal Protected
NB Ruisseau Chenière -64.557 47.965 Private, Provincial
NB South Kouchibouguac Dune KNP** -64.893 46.808 Federal Protected
NB South Richibucto -64.746 46.700 Private
NB South Richibucto (North Barrier Island) -64.804 46.707 Federal, Private
NB Sainte-Marie - Saint-Raphael -64.564 47.783 Private, Provincial
NB Swinging Point -64.962 47.278 Provincial
NB Tern Islands KNP** -64.874 46.778 Federal Protected
NB Tracadie Dune -64.866 47.529 Private
NB Val Comeau -64.872 47.467 Federal. Private, Provincial
NB Waterside -64.810 45.627 Private
NB Wilson Point North -64.467 47.944 Private, Provincial
NB Wilson Point South -64.490 47.920 Federal, Private, Provincial
NL Big Barachois Beach -59.240 47.606 Provincial
NL Big Barasway (Burgeo) -57.730 47.650 Provincial
NL Big Barasway (Seal Cove) -56.035 47.497 Private, Provincial
NL Bottles Barachois (Rocky Barachois Beach) -59.232 47.591 Private, Provincial
NL Cape Ray Beach, J.T. Cheeseman Provincial Park -59.283 47.622 Provincial
NL Crow Head Beach -57.682 47.627 Private, Provincial
NL Flat Bay Peninsula -58.587 48.420 Provincial
NL Fourth Beach - Sandbanks Provincial Park -57.661 47.698 Provincial
NL Grand Codroy Provincial Park -59.33 47.83 Provincial
NL Little Codroy Beach (MacDougall’s Beach) -59.309 47.761 Provincial
NL Osmond Beach -59.255 47.618 Private, Provincial
NL Sandy Point, Flat Island -58.491 48.457 Provincial
NL Seal Cove - Stephenville Crossing -58.463 48.515 Private
NL Second Beach - Sandbanks Provincial Park -57.647 47.603 Provincial
NL Second Beach (Grand Bay West) -59.200 47.583 Provincial
NL Shallow Bay Beach** - 57.755 49.948 Federal Protected
NL Short Sand Beach -59.252 47.671 Private, Provincial
NL Stephenville Crossing -58.430 48.500 Private, Provincial
NL Stephenville Crossing – Main Gut south -58.430 48.480 Unknown
NL Third Beach - Sandbanks Provincial Park -57.653 47.601 Provincial
NS Beach Meadows -64.638 44.057 Municipal
NS Big Merigomish Island -62.367 45.677 Private, Provincial
NS Black Point -65.050 43.701 Private
NS Bowen Island -62.548 45.656 Provincial
NS Bulls Head -65.570 43.465 Federal, Private
NS Burks Point -65.501 43.494 Private
NS Cape Bay, Cape LaHave Island -64.377 44.193 Municipal
NS Captains Pond and Monks Head -61.851 45.679 Private, Provincial
NS Carters & Wobamkek -64.817 43.907 Private
NS Cherry Hill (Conrad) -64.511 44.142 Provincial
NS Clam Harbour -62.895 44.726 Private, Provincial
NS Clam Point -65.570 43.500 Provincial
NS Conrads (East and West) -63.369 44.643 Private, Provincial
NS Cranberry Pond -64.808 43.899 Private
NS Crescent -65.120 43.695 Municipal, Private
NS Crow Neck (Baccaro) -65.465 43.477 Private, Provincial
NS Daniels Head (Southside) -65.595 43.434 Private, Provincial
NS Dominion (Lingan) -60.040 46.221 Provincial
NS Dunns -61.885 45.691 Private, Provincial
NS Fox Bar -65.330 43.609 Private
NS Glace Bay Bar -59.926 46.179 Federal
NS Goose (Indian) Point -65.515 43.498 Private
NS Grahams Cove -61.775 45.645 Private
NS Hawk Point -65.616 43.411 Provincial
NS James -62.554 45.659 Private
NS Johnstons Pond -64.948 43.778 Provincial
NS Little Port Joli Bay, Keji NP Seaside**** -64.810 43.861 Federal Protected
NS Louis Head -65.010 43.758 Private, Provincial
NS Mahoneys -61.895 45.698 Private, Provincial
NS Martinique -63.127 44.692 Provincial
NS Melmerby -62.506 45.659 Private, Provincial
NS North Harbour -60.459 46.921 Provincial
NS Northeast Point -65.608 43.514 Municipal, Private, Provincial
NS Oak Island -63.405 45.848 Private
NS Pictou Bar Spit (Lighthouse) -62.658 45.683 Federal, Provincial
NS Pomquet -61.809 45.648 Private, Provincial
NS Port Joli (Goose Haven) -64.870 43.863 Private
NS Ragged Harbour -64.559 44.087 Municipal, Private
NS Rainbow Haven Park (Cole Harbour) -63.415 44.649 Provincial
NS Red Head -65.345 43.571 Private
NS Round Bay & Roseway -65.350 43.601 Provincial
NS Sand Hills Provincial Park (Sebim) -65.561 43.534 Provincial
NS Sandy Bay -64.888 43.824 Private, Provincial
NS Shipping Point -61.535 46.015 Private, Provincial
NS South Harbour -60.433 46.882 Private
NS South West Mabou -61.426 46.059 Provincial
NS St. Catherines River, KejiNP Seaside**** -64.829 43.842 Federal Protected
NS Stoney (Lawrencetown Head) -63.357 44.644 Private, Provincial
NS Stoney Island -65.582 43.460 Private, Provincial
NS Summerville -64.819 43.950 Provincial
NS The Cape -65.627 43.399 Federal, Provincial
NS The Hawk -65.612 43.422 Provincial
PE Adams Pond, Darnley -63.605 46.554 Private
PE Basin Head -62.090 46.389 Private, Provincial
PE Beach Point, Kings County -62.478 46.022 Federal, Private, Provincial
PE Black Pond -62.159 46.367 Private, Provincial
PE Blooming Point, PEINP*** -63.007 46.415 Federal Protected
PE Boughton Island -62.414 46.198 Private
PE Campbells Pond, Park Corner -63.546 46.539 Private
PE Canavoy -62.822 46.433 Private, Provincial
PE Cascumpec Sand Hills -64.024 46.776 Federal, Private
PE Cavendish Sandspit, PEINP*** -63.446 46.506 Federal Protected
PE Clarkes Pond, PEINP*** -63.40 46.50 Federal Protected
PE Conway Sand Hills -63.931 46.696 Provincial
PE Cousins Pond, Cousins Shore -63.557 46.541 Private
PE Covehead, PEINP*** -63.166 46.430 Federal Protected
PE Darnley Point -63.679 46.561 Private
PE Deroche Pond -62.934 46.425 Private, Provincial
PE Diligent Pond -61.989 46.442 Private
PE East Lake -62.010 46.463 Private, Provincial
PE East Point -61.984 46.458 Private, Provincial
PE Eglington Cove -62.350 46.320 Provincial
PE Fortune -62.344 46.335 Private
PE Greenwich Central (includes PEINP***) -62.71 46.44 Federal, Private
PE Greenwich Tip, PEINP*** -62.726 46.445 Federal
PE Hog Island -63.790 46.617 Federal
PE Howe Bay Sandspit -62.376 46.296 Provincial
PE Jacques Cartier Provincial Park East – Kildare Point Sandspit -64.013 46.849 Federal, Private, Provincial
PE Nail Pond -64.052 47.004 Private, Provincial
PE North Rustico Sandbar -63.289 46.450 Provincial
PE Old Ferry Spit, St. Georges -62.421 46.253 Provincial
PE Panmure Island -62.467 46.132 Provincial
PE Pigots Pond, Savage Harbour -62.846 46.433 Private
PE Poverty Beach -62.484 46.038 Provincial
PE Poverty Island -62.484 46.030 Provincial
PE Priest Pond -62.178 46.482 Private
PE Robinson’s Island Sandspit, PEINP*** -63.271 46.446 Federal Protected
PE Ross Lane, PEINP*** -63.127 46.427 Federal Protected
PE Rustico Island Causeway, PEINP*** -63.227 46.434 Federal Protected
PE Savage Harbour (West) -62.830 46.433 Federal, Provincial
PE Schooner Pond, PEINP*** -62.665 46.459 Federal
PE Shaws Beach, PEINP*** -63.192 46.430 Federal Protected
PE Souris Causeway -62.271 46.356 Municipal, Provincial
PE South Lake -62.031 46.418 Private, Provincial
PE Spry Cove -62.374 46.271 Provincial
PE St Peters Harbour -62.739 46.442 Federal, Private
PE St Peters Lake Run -62.775 46.439 Private
PE Stanhope, PEINP*** -63.096 46.420 Federal Protected
PE Stanhope Cape, PEINP*** -63.141 46.431 Federal Protected
PE Tracadie Sandbar -63.025 46.415 Private, Provincial
PE Wood Islands -62.761 45.954 Private
QC Anse aux Baleiniers -61.898 47.420 Private, Provincial
QC Anthony’s Nose -61.474 47.783 Provincial
QC Barge échouée -61.787 47.471 Provincial
QC Bassin aux Huîtres (east) -61.507 47.554 Provincial
QC Bassin aux Huîtres (west) -61.532 47.543 Provincial
QC Cap du Dauphin -61.543 47.625 Provincial
QC Cap Noddy île Brion -61.511 47.780 Provincial
QC Chemin Coulombe -61.951 47.350 Provincial
QC Chenal de la Grande-Entrée -61.559 47.548 Provincial
QC Digue à Fernand -61.960 47.362 Private
QC Dune de l’Ouest -61.963 47.312 Provincial
QC Dune du Bassin secteur 1 -61.914 47.223 Private, Provincial
QC Dune du Bassin secteur 2 -61.883 47.222 Provincial
QC Dune du Sud (début) -61.694 47.507 Provincial
QC Dune du Sud (milieu) -61.661 47.534 Provincial
QC Dune du Sud (pointe) -61.594 47.558 Provincial
QC Étang à Ben -61.953 47.357 Private, Provincial
QC Étang à Procul-Bourgeois -61.895 47.352 Private
QC Étang des Caps -61.998 47.264 Private, Provincial
QC Goulet du Havre-aux-Basques -61.982 47.282 Provincial
QC Grande Brèche-Dune du Nord -61.630 47.576 Provincial
QC Grande Échouerie -61.411 47.614 Provincial
QC L’Éolienne -61.740 47.460 Provincial
QC La Cormorandière -61.715 47.483 Private, Provincial
QC La Digue -61.842 47.400 Private
QC La Pointe -61.835 47.402 Private
QC Le Corfus -61.957 47.330 Provincial
QC Mine de sel -61.570 47.612 Provincial
QC Old-Harry -61.468 47.585 Provincial
QC Plage de Grosse-Île -61.497 47.624 Provincial
QC Plage de la Martinique -61.931 47.294 Provincial
QC Plage de l’Hôpital -61.864 47.427 Provincial
QC Plage du Havre Aubert -61.909 47.261 Provincial
QC Pointe de l’Est -61.409 47.630 Private, Provincial
QC Pointe-aux-Loups -61.688 47.541 Provincial
QC Pont du Détroit -61.750 47.497 Provincial
QC Portage-du-Cap -61.884 47.243 Private, Provincial
QC Sandy Hook (à la base) -61.821 47.230 Provincial
QC Sandy Hook (bout) -61.790 47.262 Provincial
QC Sandy Hook (milieu) -61.800 47.252 Provincial
QC Secteur avant mine de sel -61.586 47.604 Provincial
QC Secteur lac Goose -61.603 47.593 Provincial
QC Secteur-îlet- Pointe-aux-loups -61.738 47.507 Provincial

A portion of this site is located within Black Pond Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
* NWA – National Wildlife Area
** KNP – Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada
*** PEINP– Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada
**** Keji NP Seaside – Kejimkujik National Park of Canada Seaside Adjunct

Note: the coordinates provided in this Appendix are intended to orient the reader to the general location of a given beach. They are not intended to mark the exact centre of the beaches, which are part of dynamic coastal systems and change from time to time. Critical habitat exists at these beaches where the criteria for identification of critical habitat (Section 7.1) have been met.


Sites occupied in at least one year since 1991 that no longer have suitable habitat (defined in the key habitat attributes section).
These sites are not identified as critical habitat.
Province Beach Latitude Longitude Rationale*
NB Crab Island -64.953 47.290 1
NB Dune de Maisonnette -64.969 47.822 1
NB Petit Barachois -64.439 46.236 2
NB North Richibucto Dune, KNP** -64.832 46.743 2
NL First Beach - Grand Bay West -59.18 47.58 1
NL Kelby Cove, Grand Bay West -59.224 47.583 1
NL Searston Beach -59.335 47.832 1
NS Conrods, Petpeswick Inlet -63.180 44.705 1
NS Oxners Beach -64.340 44.278 2
NS Roaring Bull Point -62.573 45.681 2
PE Brandor’s Pond, Sea View -63.584 46.548 1
PE Cabot Provincial Park -63.693 46.557 1
PE Lower Darnley, Adams Cottages -63.622 46.548 1
PE Naufrage -62.406 46.468 1
PE North Rustico, PEINP*** -63.293 46.459 1
QC Port de Grosse-Île -61.514 47.626 2

* 1 – habitat not suitable; 2 – insufficient suitable habitat
** KNP – Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada
*** PEINP– Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada

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