Plover/Tern Updates

From Maureen Durkin from the USFWS:

Update from 2022:

2022 Quonnie: Abundance at Quonnie remained flat from 2021 to 2022, at 12 pairs. However, one
pair moved from the east side thin-layer placement (TLP) site to the main beach area. The east
TLP site has completely overwashed for the last two seasons and plovers have not been able to
successfully nest there. The east TLP has a lower elevation than the west TLP, where plovers
continue to nest and were again successful this year. Both TLP sites/ pond shoreline areas remain
important feeding areas for piping plovers. Birds from the main beach at Quonnie are often
observed foraging either on the shore of the pond, or on the extensive moist substrate on the
restoration areas. Following the patterns observed state-wide, productivity was down at Quonnie
from 1.5 fledges/pair last year to 0.83 fledges in 2022. Nest hatch rates were fairly average at 0.5
(for exclosed and unexclosed combined), but chick fledging rates were low at 0.3. A variety of
predators were observed at Quonnie, including coyotes and crows, with at least one nest also lost
to overwash.
Like Ninigret, parts of Quonnie (particularly the western end) experienced severe erosion
from the last season Nor’easters that occurred in the spring.
A large scarp formed at the
beachfront on the west end, essentially eliminating access to dune nesting in some spots. While
nesting was technically possible on the seaward side of the scarp, this zone is very vulnerable to
overwash. As at Ninigret, one pair actually dug a nest into the side of the scarped dune,
underneath hanging roots and sand. The erosion and habitat change on the beach face at Quonnie
is also bringing the sand trail closer to the beach face in some areas
. Chicks were seen crossing
back and forth across the road in several spots this year, and it remains crucial to continue the
vehicle escorting and signage along the sand trail for permitted vehicles during the summer
months. Our program actively communicates with landowners from both Rhode Island Mobile
Sportfishermen (RIMS) and Quonnie Beach Conservation Commission to ensure that
landowners are aware of their responsibility under the ESA with regard to vehicles and are kept
abreast of the presence of unfledged chicks in the area.
As in previous years, there is frequent
entry onto the sand trail by vehicles that do not have a valid CRMC permit, or those who have a15
CRMC permit for beach driving generally, but are not associated with a landowner group at
Quonnie. Ensuring that the sand trail does not pose a threat to nesting plovers is extremely
important at this site, and enforcement of permits is a perennial challenge given the
multiple/overlapping agencies and multiple landowners.
One other happening of note this season
was the discovery of a dead male plover in the dunes just before the large overwash. There were
no obvious signs of predation and a cause of death was not evident. The bird tested negative for
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

2022 (summer)

This is likely my second-to-last update of the summer, as we are getting to the final part of the breeding season here in Rhode Island. We have a handful of unfledged plover chicks still on the beaches at Ninigret and Quonnie, one unfledged American oystercatcher chick at Sandy Point Island, and Least Terns are still active at a few sites. But otherwise, the vast majority of our birds are out of breeding mode and starting to move around to different foraging sites stage in larger groups. We’ve been gradually taking down poles and ropes at many beaches as birds wrap up, but we are still waiting on the last broods and on the least terns at some sites. It’s a big job to get all the symbolic fencing in for the season, but we’re making good progress. 

While the numbers are still preliminary and we have a few more chicks to go, overall this year is looking like it will be fair for Rhode Island plovers, productivity-wise. Not great, not terrible. We’ll likely land right around or just below 1.0 chicks/pair this year. That’s lower than we would like to be- our goal is 1.25 chicks/pair for a stable population, but given the crazy weather this spring I’m not entirely surprised we came up a little short. The good news is that we are holding steady at 99 pairs for the state overall (75 on USFWS-managed sites and our partners at TNC had 24 pairs this year). I have to say I do hope we can crack 100 pairs in the next couple years, but I’m glad we held onto last year’s number.

American oystercatchers struggled this year- our target productivity for that species is 0.5 chicks/pair, and it looks like we’ll land around 0.27 chicks/pair. Fingers crossed for a better year for them next year. On the bright side, we’ve banded several of the chicks that did fledge, so hopefully we get some valuable information about where they end up breeding in a couple years. 

I’ll be in touch again later this month when all the birds are wrapped up! As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions and thank you for your continued support for our beach-nesters. 


Maureen  (if you want to be on her mailing list, send an email to:

SitePIPL Nesting PairsUn-FledgedFledgedProductivity
Sandy Point Island8*03*0.25-0.38
East Beach Watch Hill160221.38
Quonnie Beach + Restored Marshes12480.66-1.0
Green Hill1000
Trustom Pond NWR13**0100.77
East Matunuck State Beach1000
Roger Wheeler State Beach1044.00
Quonset Airport (APHIS monitored)1022.00
Sachuest Point- Second & ThirdBeaches5091.80
Block Island2042.00