Piping Plover Rearing
Over the past two decades, local conservation groups and government agencies in Atlantic Canada have developed programs to protect plover nesting habitat, reduce nest predation and educate beach goers about how to avoid harming these birds. Although plover populations may be stabilizing in this region, recovery has been slow.
In the Great Lakes area, techniques have been developed to save viable abandoned plover eggs, incubate them and rear the hatchlings in special enclosures on the beach. However, because of difficulties unique to coastal beaches, these techniques had never been attempted with Atlantic coast populations.
In 2011, Wildlife Preservation Canada launched a pilot project in conjunction with Parks Canada and the Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton, New Brunswick, to resolve these challenges. The techniques developed took into account the different natural food sources of ocean shore plovers, the limited access to fresh water and the need for soft-release flight pens that can withstand ocean tides and storm swells. The project’s success earned the 2012 Parks Canada CEO Award of Excellence.
In 2011, five plovers successfully raised from abandoned eggs were soft-released into the wild. Post-release monitoring indicated they all survived to migrate along with their wild-hatched counterparts.
By developing these new techniques, we’ve made it possible for conservation managers anywhere on the coast to save abandoned eggs and increase the number of young that survive, boosting the piping plover’s recovery.
Kendra MacDonald was our Canada’s New Noah for 2010. Kendra holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Biology from the University of Prince Edward Island and a Master’s in Environment and Sustainability from Western University. She has worked for Parks Canada, the Upper Thames Conservation Authority and the Nature Conservancy of Canada in various capacities related to conservation and species at risk. She also gained experience in wildlife rehabilitation while volunteering at the Hope for Wildlife Centre in Nova Scotia. As coordinator of the piping plover project, she was responsible for updating the protocols for egg collection and rearing, training zoo staff, caring for the chicks in the release pens and monitoring them after they were released.