Piping Plovers returned to Ontario to breed in 2007, after a 30 year absence. They’re drawn to our province’s largest sand beaches, where they share the shores with hundreds of beach goers each summer.
Birds Canada works with our partners to protect nests with fencing and predator exclosures. Volunteers at each beach help by engaging beach goers and by collecting data on the birds’ wellbeing.
Our partners include the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks; Environment and Climate Change Canada; Stewardship Grey Bruce (Plover Lovers), and Friends of Nancy Island.
Piping Plover Photo: Pauliina Saarinen
Ways to Help Ontario’s Piping Plovers
1. Become familiar with these endangered birds. Check out these helpful resources!
Volunteer Manual: Field Guide (click to download)
Do you need help identifying a possible Piping Plover? Do you want to learn how to read Piping Plover leg bands? Do you want to learn more about the volunteer role? This is for you.
Volunteer Manual: Supplementary Information (click to download)
Extra information for people who like to dig deeper; threats, legislation, conservation methods, botulism, and how to survey beaches.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been coordinating recovery efforts in the U.S. Great Lakes for many years. Birds Canada is working closely with their teams to improve conservation efforts. We recommend checking out their website for great videos, plover stories, and to learn more about the history of plovers in the Great Lakes:
Follow the project on social media for updates throughout the field season: @ontarioplovers on Twitter and facebook.com/ontarioplovers.
2. Report Piping Plover Sightings
Report all Piping Plover sightings within Ontario to Andrea Gress via email or phone. Include the following details: specific location, date and time, number of plovers observed, a description of their behaviour and leg bands, photos (if applicable), and your contact details. Please do not disturb Piping Plovers in order to see bands or take photos.
3. Volunteer for Piping Plovers
Volunteer opportunities are available from when Piping Plovers start nesting (mid-late May) until they leave the province (late July-early August). Volunteer shifts are usually 2-4 hours long, and timing is flexible. Breeding locations change from year to year, but usually plovers nest at Sauble Beach, Wasaga Beach, Darlington Provincial Park and few other locations. You’ll be able to sign up for times that fit your schedule, whether it’s a weekend, evening, or during a weekday.
As a volunteer you will spend most of your time near a plover nest, observing a pair of plovers while they incubate, or observing a family with chicks while they forage on the beach. You will explain to curious beach goers about the plovers, and help them understand how their actions make a difference. You may be working alone, with other volunteers, or with friends or family that signed up to volunteer too. Your main jobs are:
Outreach and Education
Inspire positive plover experiences! Encourage visitors to share the beach with Piping Plovers and understand what they can do to help. Help people see the plovers and identify them.
Nest Monitoring and Data Collection
The data you collect are used by Coordinators to track the plover population, health, threats and disturbances. These data are used to make management decisions on the beach, and track the success of outreach efforts over time.
What you need
You will need to provide your own transport to and from the beach. We recommend being prepared for all weather and bringing a cell phone. You will likely want binoculars or other visual aids, as the plovers can be hard to spot from a distance. All materials needed for data collection will be provided, along with volunteer training and support from local Coordinators.
How to sign up
Follow the sign up to volunteer link below. When you sign up to become a volunteer you can choose from a list of possible nest sites. You will be contacted by email if plovers nest at any of the sites you’ve selected. We can’t guarantee that plovers will nest near you, fingers crossed!
Contact Andrea Gress if you have any questions about the sign up process or volunteering. You can also get more information (much more!) by checking out the volunteer manuals provided on this website.
Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Program is generously supported by: