Chaque été, le petit pluvier siffleur retourne au même site de nidification sur les
plages et les dunes de sable des Maritimes.
Avec seulement 2500 individus en tout, cette
espèce menacée a grand besoin de la protection des humains et Roland Chiasson partage avec nous ses expériences en
tant que gardien côtier avec le Projet pour la sauvegarde du Pluvier siffleur.
gardiens patrouillent les plages, identifient les sites de nidification, installent des
clôtures et sensibilisent le public à la condition critique de cet oiseau. Est-qu'on
Oui, les taux de succès d'envol augmentent lorsque le pluvier reçoit un
coup main de ses amis humains.
On Plover Patrol
wo people are moving down
a seemingly deserted beach. It is the first week of June and the sun shines brightly, but
a cold easterly wind makes it feel more like March. They are listening for sounds and
scanning for movement. Finally, one of the figures raises a hand in warning. A sound has
been heard. A small, pale bird scurries across the beach. A sense of relief follows; the
Plovers have returned.
This bird's life is the beach! A peaceful beach in early March will be anything but quiet
Human visitors often overrun beaches with their four-wheelers, trucks and all-night
parties. It might be said that this bird is crazy for coming faithfully back to a site
like this to raise a family; but the Piping Plover are very traditional. They return year
after year to the same beach, often to nest in the exact same spot. Here they will lay an
average of 4 eggs per nest. However, if the nest is disturbed by humans or predators, the
second nesting attempts usually only produce two to three eggs. They will continue
returning to the same site until they die or are replaced. After all, this is their home.
The Piping Plover is a sparrow-sized beach bird that spends its summer in the coastal
areas of the Maritimes. Its winters are spent along the U.S. southeastern seaboard, mainly
Georgia and Florida, and on Cuba's northern coast. With only an approximate 2500 pairs
left in North America, the Piping Plover is an endangered species that is near extinction
due to human disturbance. Piping Plovers are found only on coastal beaches, sand flats and
mud flats in Eastern Canada.
They are easily confused with their relatives, the more abundant Semipalmated Plover and
Piping Plovers were first declared an endangered species in 1985. Since then,
conservation programs have been initiated in most areas of their habitat. Conservation has
been attempted through education, predator enclosures, controlled access to nesting sites
and guardianship programs. Even with these measures, it still isn't easy being a Piping
Plover. Their decline has been linked to the loss of other coastal species and the
development and disturbance of our coastlines.
While Piping Plover numbers continue to fall, we may still turn things around. During the
summer of 1997, the Piping Plovers on the Acadian Peninsula enjoyed a mixed season. One
hundred and four individual Piping Plovers used the beaches. This is the lowest population
count to date. Our highest count was in 1987, with 130 individuals.
This season, forty-nine pairs were followed all summer long, and their average fledging
success rate was 1.7 young per pair. The good news is that this is the highest success
rate we've had over the last 8 years. Success rates on beaches where coastal guardians
were present was even higher at 2.2 on average. From seven beaches, eighty-four young left
south in the late summer.
We have great hope for these birds, though there is much unknown about their winter
habitat and survival. While we can boost fledgling success, for unknown reasons, fewer
birds continue to return each year. New research projects, such as the possibility of
banding, may provide us with some clues.
Who are we?
The Piper Project/Projet siffleur has been recognized as a special project of the New
Brunswick Federation of Naturalists. On a local level, this project is an integral part of
the activities of our regional naturalist's club: Le Club des naturalistes de la peninsule
acadienne. "Piper" is a nickname for the Piping Plover and "siffleur"
is part of the bird's French name: "Pluvier siffleur." This project was started
as an non-profit, bilingual endeavour on the Acadian Peninsula in 1988. Our goal is to
protect coastal ecosystems, especially Piping Plover habitat, and to educate the public
about coastal ecosystem issues. We do this because we strongly believe that the decline of
the Piping Plover is a warning sign that all of our coastal ecosystems are in trouble. We
have made the Piping Plover our symbol, though we undertake many other projects not
directly related to the Piping Plover.
What do we do for the Piping Plover?
This year, our second Coastal Guardian Project was implemented with financial help
from Human Resources and Development Canada through their Youth Services Canada Program.
This allowed us to install fences and post notices around nesting sites, while meeting
with users of the various beaches. The idea of being a Guardian for the Piping Plover was
taken from similar volunteer projects in Nova Scotia and the United States. This summer a
total of 18 youth were on Plover Patrol. Their role, after more than four weeks of
training, included school presentations and the gathering of valuable data about
infractions to the provincial Trespass Act.
What can you do?
Become a coastal guardian for the Piping Plover and other coastal organisms. Find out
about coastal areas near you. Are there Piping Plovers in your region? What other kinds of
wildlife are there? Is their habitat threatened by vehicles or human activities? In New
Brunswick it is against the law to drive over coastal habitats, so report off-road vehicle
activities on beaches and salt marshes to the RCMP. To find out about joining Piping
Plover counts call, write or e-mail us. You can also contact the Irving Nature Centre in
Boutouche at 743-2600.
Piping Plovers have shown us the need to persist with conservation efforts. Over the years
we have made gains in Piping Plover awareness, but what we really need is action. Actions
that will protect sites from human disturbances and continued support for our coastal
guardians. The Piping Plover is the key to protecting our coastal habitat for all who
share this marvellous place.
... and so, the plover patrol continues with the hope that more Piping Plover will be
The Piper Project/Projet siffleur can be contacted through Roland Chiasson or Sabine Dietz. Box 8, Site 9,
R.R. 2 Tabusintac, N.B.