These small shorebirds (Charadrius melodus) (approximately seven inches long) call Hilton Head Island home during the winter months. They have sand-colored plumage on their backs and crown and white underparts. During winter, the birds have pale yellow legs and the bill becomes mostly black, and the black bands around the neck and across the forehead fade. Piping plovers were federally listed as threatened (Northern Great Plains and Atlantic Coast populations) and endangered (Great Lakes population) in 1986. Piping plovers are considered threatened throughout their wintering range, which includes Hilton Head Island. We usually have about 12-15 birds spend the winter here, with others that stop over briefly while migrating to other areas.
The Town of Hilton Head Island monitors the wintering roosting (resting) grounds and conducts detailed surveys to assist the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in properly assessing the health of the population. The Town maintains signage around critical resting areas, and asks that people stay out of marked areas and keep dogs on leashes at all times. Flushing shorebirds and forcing them to fly causes them to use essential energy supplies and compromises their ability to successfully migrate. Please avoid disturbance and give them space to feed.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services: www.fws.gov/plover/
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources: www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/species/coastalbirds/shorebirds/PipingPlover.html
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources "Share the Beach with South Carolina's Coastal Birds" Brochure: www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/species/coastalbirds/files/Brochures/ShorebirdsBrochure.pdf