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Young Piping Plover dies after people remove it from beach

Piping Plover
A Piping Plover chick that was illegally removed from a Rhode Island beach receives care at a wildlife center in Massachusetts. The chick later died. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A Piping Plover chick from a nest in Rhode Island died last week after vacationers brought the bird home with them to Massachusetts.

The chick was eventually brought to a Massachusetts wildlife rehabilitator when it began to show signs of poor health. Given its rapidly declining condition, it was transferred to Tufts Wildlife Clinic and then to Cape Wildlife in Barnstable, Massachusetts. Despite the best efforts of veterinarians, the chick had become too weak from the ordeal and died.

The incident prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remind the public not to disturb or interfere with plovers or other wildlife. While wild animals may appear to be “orphaned,” they usually are not; parents are often waiting nearby for humans to leave. Plover chicks are able to run and feed themselves, and even if they appear to be alone, their parents are usually in the vicinity.

Baby songbirds, seal pups, and fawns are also at risk from being removed from the wild unnecessarily by people mistaking them for orphans. If a young animal is encountered alone in the wild, the best course of action is typically to leave the area. In most cases the parents will return without human intervention.

An adult Piping Plover with three chicks on a nest in Maine. Photo by Kaiti Titherington/FWS

In rare instances where a young animal is truly in need of assistance, people should contact the appropriate state or federal wildlife agency, whose staff is trained to handle these types of situations. Members of the public should never handle wildlife or remove it from the area before contacting authorities. In addition to the likelihood of causing more harm than good, regardless of intentions, it is illegal to possess or handle most wildlife, especially threatened and endangered species like Piping Plovers.


Around 85 pairs of Piping Plovers breed in Rhode Island under the close watch of several agencies.

“With such a small population, each individual bird makes a difference,” said Maureen Durkin, the Service’s plover coordinator for Rhode Island. “By sharing our beaches and leaving the birds undisturbed, we give plovers the best chance to successfully raise chicks each year.”

Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for providing this news.

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