Maine Audubon Society reports that the number of nesting pairs of piping plovers increased in 2023. This bird was at Higgins Beach. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Audubon Society

Piping plovers were at a record-high number in 2023, increasing the population of breeding pairs for the sixth consecutive year, according to the Maine Audubon Society.

Coastal bird biologists with Maine Audubon noted 157 breeding pairs this year. Some birds used nesting areas that had been vacant or were entirely new. But the chick survival rate was the lowest since 2007.

Maine Audubon is pleased with the increase in nesting pairs, but has some concerns about the lower survival rate.

The organization and a host of other groups including Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, volunteers, beach front landowners, law enforcement, park employees and towns have worked for more than 40 years to try to restore the piping plover population. There were only six nesting pairs documented in 1983.

This beautiful piping plover demonstrated some protective behavior while sharing the sand at Reid State Park with its chick and human beach goers. Credit: Courtesy of Dave Small

The groups also protect the least terns.

“The piping plover population has reached numbers that have far exceeded what we once thought could be possible,” Maine Audubon said in its press release.

Successful nesting sites included Drakes Island in Wells, Hills Beach in Biddeford, Pine Point in Scarborough, Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Hunnewell in Phippsburg, Chebeague Island and beaches in Ogunquit and Wells, the group said.

Ogunquit had 16 nesting pairs of plovers that produced 24 chicks and Wells had 16 that produced 29.

Piping plovers migrate as far south as Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean for the winter and often arrive back in March when there might still be snow.

Julie Harris is senior outdoors editor at Bangor Daily News. She has served in many roles since joining BDN in 1979, including several editing positions. She lives in Litchfield with her husband and three...