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Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Ontario [PROPOSED] – 2011

Species at Risk Act
Action Plan Series

Table of Contents

Document Information


Document Information

Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Ontario [PROPOSED] – 2011

Cover of the publicaiton: Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Ontario [PROPOSED] – 2011

Piping Plover

Piping Plover in Ontario

Recommended citation:

Environment Canada. 2011. Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Ontario [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Action Plan Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. iii + 19 pp.

For copies of the action plan, or for additional information on species at risk, including COSEWIC Status Reports, residence descriptions, recovery strategies, and other related recovery documents, please visit the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry.

Cover illustration: © Brendan Toews

Également disponible en français sous le titre
« Plan d'action pour le Pluvier siffleur (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) en Ontario [Proposition] »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2011. All rights reserved.
ISBN
Catalogue no.

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.

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Preface

The Piping Plover is a migratory bird under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and is under the management jurisdiction of the federal government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 47) requires the competent minister to prepare an action plan(s) in respect of a recovery strategy. A final recovery strategy for the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies was posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry in October 2006. Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario led the development of this action plan for the Ontario populations of the Piping Plover. It was developed in cooperation with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Parks Canada Agency.

This is one of four action plans for the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies which will be posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry. Action Plans for the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies have been posted for Alberta and Saskatchewan and one is in preparation for Manitoba.

This action plan is designed to implement the Ontario portion of the Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (2006) and the Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada Re: Identification of Critical Habitat (2007). Refer to the recovery strategy for more complete information on the biology, status, and threats to the Piping Plover.

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Acknowledgments

This action plan was prepared by Barbara Slezak with assistance from John Brett (Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service Ontario) based on previous iterations written by Mary Vallianatos, formerly Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario, and Leo Heyens, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

The following people provided information for and reviewed this action plan: Chris Risley, Leo Heyens, and Suzanne Robinson from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; Jeff Robinson, Krista Holmes, and Madeline Austen of Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario; and Meghan Gerson, formerly of Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario.

Contributions were also made by the following people to earlier versions of this action plan: Jeff Robinson, Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario; Karen Hartley, Scott Jones, Donald Sutherland, and Hilary Gignac from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; Burke Korol, formerly Ontario Parks; and Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada.

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Executive Summary

In Ontario, the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) is listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act and the provincial Endangered Species Act, 2007. Two populations of Piping Plovers are found in Ontario; the Prairie Canada Population which is located on Lake of the Woods, and the Canadian Great Lakes Population, which is found along the shores of the Great Lakes. Since the completion of the Piping Plover Recovery Strategy, many successes have been achieved with both of these populations.In 2009, at Windy Point (Lake of the Woods), Piping Plovers nested and fledged young, the first successful breeding attempt since 2003. In 2007, a pair of Piping Plovers nested at Sauble Beach after a 30 year absence of nesting pairs on the Canadian Great Lakes. Breeding here continued in 2008 with nests at Sauble, Oliphant and Wasaga Beaches, and in 2009 four pairs nested at Sauble Beach and two pairs had nests on Wasaga Beach. In addition, a male and four fledglings were found on Manitoulin Island in July 2009, which indicated successful breeding there.

This action plan builds on the Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada(Environment Canada 2006). The long–term recovery goal established by this recovery strategy for the Canadian population of this subspecies is to achieve a viable, self–sustained, and broadly distributed population, within the current prairie population range. Given the recent successful breeding of Piping Plovers in southern Ontario, the updated goal for the Canadian Great Lakes Population is to ensure the persistence of the current breeding population.

The population and distribution objective for the Piping Plover in Ontario is two–fold: for the Prairie Canada Population it is to achieve a minimum population of 6 adults, and for the Canadian Great Lakes Population it is to maintain a minimum of 4 breeding pairs while maintaining and, where feasible, increasing the current distribution in Ontario.

Critical habitat has been identified in this action plan and includes three sites: one site on the Lake of the Woods (the Prairie Canada Population), one site along Lake Huron (the Canadian Great Lakes Population) and one site in Georgian Bay (also part of the Canadian Great Lakes Population).

Recovery actions that have been outlined in this document fall under six categories; Protection, Management, Research, Monitoring and Assessment, and Outreach and Communication. An implementation schedule has also been developed which prioritizes these recovery actions.

It is anticipated that recovery actions associated with this action plan will have minimal socio–economic impacts. While some socioeconomic impacts will be observed during the breeding season primarily on recreational use beaches, these can be mitigated through various stewardship and education activities coordinated with local landowners and beach users.

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1. Synopsis of Recovery Strategy and Update

1.1 Associated Recovery Strategy

Environment Canada. 2006. Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. vi + 30 pp.

Environment Canada. 2007. Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada Re: Identification of Critical Habitat. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. 12 pp.

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1.2. Species Assessment Information from COSEWIC*

Date of Assessment: May 2001

Common Name (population): Piping Plover circumcinctus subspecies

Scientific Name: Charadrius melodus circumcinctus

COSEWIC Status: Endangered

Reason for Designation: The number of individuals of this subspecies breeding in Canada is small and the population is in decline. Reproductive success is low, especially in years of drought, and nests are regularly lost because of flooding. The quality of nesting habitat is decreasing in many places.

Canadian Occurrence: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario

COSEWIC Status History: The species was considered a single unit and designated Threatened in April 1978. Status re examined and designated Endangered in April 1985. In May 2001, the species was re examined and split into two groups according to subspecies. The circumcinctus subspecies was designated Endangered in May 2001.

* COSEWIC: Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada

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1.3. Description of the Species

The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small, migratory shorebird with a pale, dry sand coloured back and head, white under–parts and orange legs. In breeding plumage, the short bill is orange with a black tip, a single black band stretches between the eyes, and one black band stretches across the breast (Haig 1992).

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1.4. Populations and Distribution

The Piping Plover breeds in the United States and Canada. Two subspecies are recognized, with C. m. melodus breeding along the Atlantic coast, and C. m. circumcinctus breeding inland (Elliott–Smith et al. 2004). The species winters along the Atlantic coast of the southern United States, along the entire Gulf Coast, and in some areas of Mexico and the Caribbean.

Within Canada, C. m. circumcinctus breeds in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. In Ontario, C. m. circumcinctus is divided into two populations, the Prairie Canada Population[1] and the Canada Great Lakes Population[2] (Figure 1). Results from the 2006 International Piping Plover Census estimated the Great Lakes and Northern Great Plains/Prairies populations at 4,772 adults. Of these, 1,704 adults (36%) were found in Canada (Elliott–Smith et al. 2009).

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1.4.1. Ontario Population and Distribution

Since the completion of the Piping Plover Recovery Strategy (Environment Canada 2006), many successes have been achieved with the two populations in Ontario:

Prairie Canada Population

In 2009, Piping Plovers nested and fledged young at Windy Point, on Lake of the Woods, which was the first successful breeding attempt there since 2003. An unsuccessful nesting attempt occurred at the Sable Islands Provincial Nature Reserve on Lake of the Woods in 2007.

Canadian Great Lakes Population

In 2007, a pair of Piping Plovers nested at Sauble Beach after a 30 year absence of nesting pairs on the Ontario side of the Great Lakes. Breeding here continued in 2008 with nests at Sauble, Oliphant and Wasaga Beaches, and in 2009 four pairs nested at Sauble Beach and two pairs had nests on Wasaga Beach. In addition, a male and four fledglings were found on Manitoulin Island in July 2009, which indicated successful breeding there.

Figure 1. Confirmed nesting occurrences of the Piping Plover in Ontario, 2007 to 2009. Data from Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario.

Figure 1 shows the confirmed nesting locations of the Piping Plover in Ontario from 2007-2009.  There are three areas where nesting has occurred: Lake of the Woods (Prairie Canada population), South Georgian Bay (Great Lakes populations), and Rainy River (Great Lakes population).

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1.5. Threats

Threats to the Piping Plover in Canada were identified in the recovery strategy (Environment Canada 2006) with the most significant of these being predation, habitat loss, and human disturbance.

Since publication of the recovery strategy and the return of nesting Piping Plovers to the Canadian Great Lakes, additional human activities that may potentially threaten this species in Ontario have been observed at areas with high levels of human recreational use, including: kites flown above or adjacent to nest sites; fireworks directed above or around nesting areas; off–leash dogs; kite boarding; the feeding of gulls (Larus spp.) around nesting areas, and the grooming or raking of beaches.

Kites, fireworks, off–leash dogs, and kite boarding have potential to disturb nesting Piping Plovers and scare them off their nests. Intentional feeding and the presence of food garbage around nesting areas attract a high density of gulls to these areas, which can increase the risk of predation to Piping Plover eggs and young. The grooming and raking of beaches for human recreation use reduces the quality of the habitat available to Piping Plovers, by removing the vegetation and debris used by roosting and brooding birds for shelter.

Breeding success has also been affected in Ontario by natural events such as storms, flooding, and heavy wind, which can cover a nest with snow, water, or sand. Nest failure has been documented in both the Canadian and United States Great Lakes populations following these events.

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1.6. Goals and Objectives for the Piping Plover

1.6.1. Goals

The long–term recovery goal identified in the recovery strategy for C. m. circumcinctus (Environment Canada 2006)is to achieve a viable[3], self–sustained, and broadly distributed population, within the current prairie population range, and the reestablishment of the Piping Plover in the historical southern Ontario range.

Given the recent successful breeding of Piping Plovers in southern Ontario, the revised goal for the Canadian Great Lakes Population is to ensure the persistence of the current breeding population.

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1.6.2. Population and Distribution Objectives

Prairie Canada Population
The population and distribution objective[4] for the Prairie Canada population is 1,626 adult Piping Plovers and is based on historical provincial counts and/or estimates. The minimum provincial population (adults) targets are as follows: Alberta 300; Saskatchewan 1,200; Manitoba 120; and Ontario (Lake of the Woods) 6. The population and distribution objective will be considered achieved if met for each of three consecutive international censuses[5].

Canadian Great Lakes Population
Since the posting of the Piping Plover Recovery Strategy (Environment Canada 2006), there have been several successful breeding occurrences on the Ontario shores of the Great Lakes. The reestablishment of the Canadian Great Lakes Population is a recent occurrence, and information is not yet available to reasonably predict the potential future population size or distribution of C. m. circumcinctus on the Canadian Great Lakes. It is premature to set population and distribution objectives that aim to increase the population or distribution in the Canadian Great Lakes Population without a more complete understanding of annual return rates, fledgling success, and habitat use and availability. At this time, the population and distribution objective for the Canadian Great Lakes Population is to maintain a minimum of 4 breeding pairs while maintaining and, where feasible, increasing the current distribution in Ontario.

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1.6.3. Recovery Objectives (2006–2010)

Recovery objectives were identified in the Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada (Environment Canada 2006):

  1. Update Prairie Canada population status (numbers and distribution).
  2. Increase knowledge of population dynamics and predators.
  3. Achieve and maintain a fledging rate of at least 1.25 fledglings per pair per year for managed sites.
  4. Identify critical habitat and achieve critical habitat protection to the extent possible through the setting of cooperative conservation measures.
  5. Support relevant conservation practices, policies, and legislation.
  6. Achieve effective protection of wintering habitat through international efforts.
  7. Prepare for potential reestablishment of Canadian Great Lakes population.

Note: The Piping Plover population has recently been reestablished on the Canadian Great Lakes, resulting in the seventh objective no longer being necessary at this time.

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1.7. Critical Habitat addressed in the Recovery Strategy

Although no critical habitat was identified in Ontario in the Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada, critical habitat was identified in Alberta and Saskatchewan in 65 quarter sections within 20 basins (Environment Canada 2007). In the addendum, a set of Basin Criteria were applied to determine which basins within the range of Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies were likely to contain critical habitat for this subspecies. In Ontario, the Lake of the Woods basin satisfied those criteria, and was identified in the addendum as likely containing critical habitat, although the boundaries of critical habitat were not identified at that time.

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2. Recovery Actions

2.1. Scope of the Action Plan

This Action Plan applies to the Ontario population of C. m. circumcinctus and recommends specific activities in Ontario that are consistent with the Recovery Strategy and associated objectives (Environment Canada 2006) and that of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's U.S. Great Lakes Recovery Plan (USFWS 2003).

This action plan outlines actions intended to address:

  1. the recovery goal stated in section 1.6.1;
  2. the Ontario portions of the population and distribution objectives in section 1.6.2; and
  3. the recovery objectives in section 1.6.3, as they pertain to Piping Plovers in Ontario.

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2.2. Critical Habitat

Since the posting of the Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada and its subsequent 2007 addendum, new information has been evaluated regarding the critical habitat for the Ontario breeding population of Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus). Critical habitat is identified for C. m. circumcinctus in Ontario based on the current available information (up to and including 2009 data). The identification of critical habitat for Piping Plover is based on multiple year occupancy of sites and confirmed breeding of Piping Plovers in suitable habitat, using the criteria described in sections 2.2.1 and 2.2.2. Critical habitat has been identified at three sites in Ontario: one site at Windy Point (Lake of the Woods), one site at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park (Georgian Bay), and one site at Sauble Beach (Lake Huron). The extent and boundaries of critical habitat in the Ontario range of C. m. circumcinctus will be refined and updated as more information becomes available on the distribution, site occupancy, and habitat usage of Piping Plovers in the province. Updates to Piping Plover critical habitat in Ontario will be included in addenda to this action plan, which will be posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

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2.2.1. Definition of Site

A site is defined as the area surrounding a nest, and the 500 m of contiguous shoreline habitat on either side of the nest, with spatially–overlapping sites merged together to form larger sites. In Ontario, Piping Plovers have been observed using anywhere from 400 metres to 1 kilometre of shoreline length for nesting, feeding and brood rearing depending on the size of the beach in question (Lambert and Risley 1989, J. Robinson, pers. comm.). Based on this information, the 500 metres of contiguous open beach or open dune habitat on each side of a nest is used to approximate the areas used by Piping Plovers during their breeding cycle. In cases where local geography (e.g. a nest being close to the end of a beach) limits the amount of shoreline available on one side of the nest, the 1 km of total shoreline may be configured differently to adjust for these limitations. For example, a site with only 100 metres of beach available on one side of a nest would extend 900 metres on the other side of the nest to compensate.

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2.2.2. Multiple–year Occupancy

In order to identify critical habitat sites for the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies in Ontario, the Basin and Quarter Section Criteria that were described in the addendum to the Piping Plover recovery strategy (Environment Canada 2007) were replaced with a criterion to better reflect the geography of Ontario breeding locations. The resulting Site Occupancy Criterion is used to determine if a site meets the multiple year occupancy requirements to qualify as critical habitat.

The Site Occupancy Criterion identifies sites where confirmed nesting has been observed in a minimum of one year and where the site has evidence of species' fidelity (i.e., where Piping Plovers have been present in multiple years). As Piping Plovers may occupy small, isolated pockets of habitat for only one year and never return, these one–time breeding sites will not be included as critical habitat unless pair re–occupancy is observed. Confirmed and probable breeding evidence must be obtained on the site from reliable sources[6] in order for the site to contribute to critical habitat identification.

  • Site Occupancy Criterion: 

    Sites that have been occupied by a minimum of one breeding pair[7] of Piping Plovers during the breeding season for at least two separate years from 1995 to 2009 AND where a Piping Plover nest is confirmed in any single year from 1995 to 2009.

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2.2.3. Suitable Habitat

The approach for identifying critical habitat is based on a description of the species' habitat needs and known ecology during the breeding cycle, including sparsely vegetated sand or mixed sand and gravel beaches usually associated with dunes or swales of islands or mainland beaches.

In Ontario, Piping Plovers inhabit sand and pebble beaches on barrier islands, peninsulas or shorelines of large lakes. They often choose sections of shoreline with the greatest available width of beach below the high water mark and most commonly this area is between the shore and the crest or peak of the vegetated dune.

Suitable habitat for the Piping Plover is identified using the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) framework for Ontario (from Lee et al. 1998). The following ELC Community Series designations include the habitat attributes that have been documented from sites currently and historically occupied by Piping Plovers in Ontario:

  • Open Beach / Bar (BBO)
  • Open Sand Dune (SDO)

The ELC framework provides a standardized approach to the interpretation and delineation of dynamic ecosystem boundaries. The ELC approach classifies habitats not only by vegetation characteristics but also considers hydrology and topography, and as such is able to adequately capture the ecosystem requirements for the Piping Plover. The portions of the shore that constitute critical habitat are identified using the appropriate ELC communities. Critical habitat excludes existing human–made structures or features (e.g. piers, boardwalks, parking lots, buildings, marinas, irrigation equipment, etc.), with the exception of existing drainage ditches.

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2.2.4. Application of Piping Plover Critical Habitat Criteria

The application of the Site Occupancy Criterion and evaluation of suitable habitat results in the identification of three critical habitat sites (Table 1): one site on Lake of the Woods (the Prairie Canada Population), one site along Lake Huron (the Canadian Great Lakes Population) and one site in Georgian Bay (also part of the Canadian Great Lakes Population). As new information becomes available, additional critical habitat sites may be identified where they meet the critical habitat criteria across the range of the Ontario Piping Plover population.

The critical habitat boundaries within a site are defined by the extent of the Open Beach / Bar and/or Open Dune ELC community series (Lee at al. 1998) and by the water's edge. As critical habitat boundaries are defined by the extent of beach and dune habitat, annual variations in the size, shape, and centroid of critical habitat patches are possible due to fluctuations in water levels and other natural processes.

Table 1. Sites in Ontario Identified as Containing Critical Habitat for the Piping Plover (circumcinctus subspecies) as of 2009.
Site NameMunicipalityBasinLand TenureGeographic Centroid of Site
LatitudeLongitude
Sauble BeachSouth Georgian BayGreat LakesPrivate (non–federal)44.66−81.28
Wasaga Beach Provincial ParkSimcoeGreat LakesProvincial (non–federal)44.53−80.02
Windy PointRainy RiverLake of the WoodsPrivate (non–federal)48.968−94.546

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Additional sites

Due to certain factors such as continuing low lake levels (which increase the amount of available beach habitat) in the Great Lakes and the success in recovery of the United States Great Lakes population, the Canadian Great Lakes population may continue to grow. This may mean that Piping Plovers will occupy other areas with suitable breeding habitat in Ontario. To date, nesting has been documented elsewhere in Ontario, with a confirmed breeding occurrence at the Sable Islands Provincial Nature Reserve on Lake of the Woods in 2007, one confirmed breeding pair at Oliphant Beach (Lake Huron) in 2008, and breeding evidence on Manitoulin Island in 2009; these sites do not yet meet the critical habitat criteria and, therefore, have not been identified as critical habitat. Transient birds have also been observed at various locations throughout the province. Areas will be surveyed over time, (e.g. during the international breeding census) and if any of these areas meet the criteria as outlined above, additional critical habitat will be identified as needed.

Nests in non–critical habitat

Piping Plovers in Atlantic Canada and the U.S. Great Lakes have been known to nest on human made structures such as gravel parking lots and dredge spoils. Many of the key habitat features normally required by the species are usually lacking in these sites making them suboptimal as regular breeding sites. In most cases these non–traditional/suboptimal sites will not be formally identified as critical habitat. However the general prohibitions under the Species at Risk Act protect the birds and their residences (nests) anywhere they occur from destruction and harassment, and the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA 2007) has provisions for protecting the species and its habitat.

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2.3. Activities Likely to Result in the Destruction of Critical Habitat

Activities that are likely to result in the destruction of Piping Plover critical habitat and its attributes are those which cause significant or lasting alterations to the beach or dune habitat (including changes in water levels, a reduction in food sources, nesting habitat, or shelter, compaction of soils, or fragmentation of habitat).

The Piping Plovers found in Ontario are from two different populations, and the habitats occupied by these two populations in Ontario have different levels and types of usage.

The site on Lake of the Woods is located in northwestern Ontario and human use at this site is limited due to its remote nature. As such, this site is more vulnerable to broad–scale alterations to habitat, including (but not limited to):

  • Activities that result in water level fluctuations, such as hydroelectric dam construction and operation, can result in the destruction of critical habitat by changing habitat suitability, availability and flooding of nests;
  • Activities that result in changes to habitat availability and suitability resulting from changes in wetland/watershed management such as cottage, residential or commercial development, and landscaping can results in the loss of critical habitat.

Piping Plovers nesting on the Canadian Great Lakes have been found on very populated recreational beaches, which makes these sites vulnerable to the following activities, including (but not limited to):

  • Activities that create soil compaction such as: cottage, residential or commercial development including construction and associated activities; landscaping; use of off–road, motorized and non–motorized vehicles (e.g. all terrain vehicles) and increased recreational activities can destroy critical habitat because soils are too compact for nest creation resulting in a loss of nesting habitat.
  • Activities that trample or remove vegetation and debris such as: beach raking (removal of vegetation and debris); use of off–road, motorized and non–motorized vehicles (e.g. all terrain vehicles); and beach improvement (replacing lost sand from beach erosion) can destroy critical habitat used as food sources and shelter.
  • Activities that result in changes habitat availability and suitability resulting from changes in wetland/watershed management such as cottage, residential or commercial development, and landscaping can results in the loss of critical habitat.

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2.4. Critical Habitat Protection

In Ontario, critical habitat is identified on non–federal lands. Critical habitat conservation and protection may be facilitated through various mechanisms including, but not limited to: federal and provincial legislation, stewardship activities, permitting, education of beach users and landowners, and municipal bylaws and beach management plans. Piping Plover habitat also receives policy–level protection on municipal lands under the Provincial Policy Statement, which can restrict the development or site alteration of the significant habitat of endangered and threatened species. In most cases a combination of these mechanisms will be used. Active, on–the–ground protection of portions of Piping Plover breeding habitat in Ontario have been undertaken, and are proposed to continue, including: the cessation of beach grooming activities and the establishment of symbolic fencing[8] to restrict public access to nesting areas.

The information below outlines the potential protection measures known to Environment Canada, at the time of publication, for critical habitat of Piping Plovers in Ontario. This Action Plan does not make a determination of whether these measures constitute effective protection under SARA.

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2.4.1. Federal Legislation

The MBCA protects and conserves migratory birds’ nests (which are a component of Piping Plover critical habitat) through various prohibitions including: Section 5 “...no person shall, without lawful excuse, (a) be in possession of a migratory bird or nest; or (b) buy, sell, exchange or give a migratory bird or nest or make it the subject of a commercial transaction.” and Section 5.1 (1) “No person or vessel shall deposit a substance that is harmful to migratory birds, or permit such a substance to be deposited, in waters or an area frequented by migratory birds or in a place from which the substance may enter such waters or such an area.”

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2.4.2. Provincial Legislation

In Ontario, the Piping Plover is listed as Endangered on the Species at Risk in Ontario (SARO) List regulation under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007. Habitat provisions protect the area on which the Piping Plover depends directly or indirectly to carry out its life processes from damage or destruction.  These life processes include, but are not limited to nesting, feeding, and migration.

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2.5. Measures to be Taken and Implementation Schedule

The measures to be taken and implementation schedule proposed to meet the recovery objectives outlined in section 1.6.3 are presented in Table 2. Environment Canada will endeavour to support implementation of this plan, subject to availability of resources and varying species at risk conservation priorities.

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2.6. Measuring Progress

The action plan must follow the adaptive management approach, whereby new information feeds back into planning on a regular basis in order to take advantage of new tools, knowledge, challenges, and opportunities. Every five years, success of this action plan implementation will be measured against the following performance indicators:

  • The size and distribution of the Prairie Canada Population in Ontario achieves a minimum population of 6 adults for each of three consecutive international censuses.
  • The size and distribution of the Canadian Great Lakes Population is maintained at a minimum of 4 breeding pairs while maintaining and, where feasible, increasing the current distribution in Ontario;

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Table 2. Measures to be taken and Implementation Schedule
ActionRecovery ObjectivesPriorityThreats or concerns addressedResponsibility*Timeline
1. Protection and management
1.1 Assess nesting sites on a site–by–site basis to determine if predator exclosures are required and erect as needed.2,3,4HighPredationOMNR, ECCWSAnnual, as required
1.2 Identify and assess other threats to nesting Piping Plovers on a site–by–site basis and determine the feasibility of various mitigation measures, if required.2,3HighThreat identification and mitigationOMNR, ECCWSAnnual, as required
1.3 Develop and implement protocols on nest management (e.g. relocating nests) to ensure alternative actions are considered before human intervention on the nest is carried out.2,3,5,7HighAll threatsECCWS, OMNR2011 and ongoing, as required
1.4 Continue to provide advice and recommendations to the Lake of the Woods Control Board regarding water level management on Lake of the Woods.4,5HighWater level fluctuationsECCWS, OMNROngoing
1.5 Encourage stewardship activities that conserve or enhance Piping Plover habitat and increase nesting success.3.5MediumAll threatsECCWS, OMNROngoing, as required
1.6 Incorporate Piping Plover habitat needs in beach management plans for public and municipal lands.3,5MediumAll threatsOMNR,
ECCWS
Ongoing as new sites emerge
2. Research
2.1 Develop methods and criteria to rate the quality of habitat in Ontario and apply to extant and historic sites to help prioritize for surveying and monitoring.2,4MediumHabitat loss and degradationECWLSD2012
2.2 Identify projects and mechanisms to eliminate knowledge gaps listed in the recovery strategy that need to be addressed through research projects, and support implementation where appropriate.2,4LowLack of species information in OntarioECWLSD2015
3. Monitoring and assessment
3.1 Compile information on extant and historic sightings of Piping Plover in Ontario and prioritize survey/monitoring locations. At a minimum, survey sites during every International Piping Plover Census.1,4HighLack of species information in OntarioECCWS,
OMNR
2011
3.2 Determine population trends, distribution, and status by participating in and carrying out local, regional, national, and international surveys.1,2MediumLack of species information in OntarioECCWS, OMNROngoing
4. Outreach and communication
4.1 Encourage the reporting of Piping Plover sightings to Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources through various birding groups and volunteer events.2,5HighPublic awarenessECCWS/
WLSD,
OMNR
Ongoing
4.2 Maintain a Guardian Manual that will include information for guardians, data collection forms and protocols for various aspects of Piping Plover recovery.AllMediumAll threatsECCWS/
WLSD,
OMNR
Ongoing
4.3 Communicate Piping Plover conservation issues and needs to public at high–traffic and high recreational–use areas where Piping Plovers breed.3.5HighPublic awarenessECCWS, OMNROngoing, as required
4.4 Participate in the International Piping Plover Census and maintain communication with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help identify and address threats to wintering populations, where feasible.2,5,6MediumAll threatsECCWSOngoing

* Identification of government agencies and non–governmental organizations is intended to be advice and does not commit the agency or organization to implementing the listed action, which will be contingent upon each organization's or agency's priorities and budgetary constraints. EC – Environment Canada, WLSD – Wildlife and Landscape Science Directorate, CWS – Canadian Wildlife Service; OMNR – Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

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3. Socio–Economic Evaluation

The following sections evaluate to the extent possible, the potential costs and benefits associated with the implementation of this action plan as required by section 49e of the Species at Risk Act. The primary approaches to Piping Plover recovery in Ontario have been and will continue to be through Federal and Provincial government cooperation along with the implementation of stewardship initiatives with land managers.

Habitats occupied by the two Piping Plover populations in Ontario have different levels and types of usage, resulting in different degrees and types of socio–economic impacts. Piping Plovers nesting on the Ontario side of the Great Lakes have been found on very populated recreational beaches classified as Open Beach/Bar and Open Sand Dune under the Ecological Land Classification (ELC) system. For example, Wasaga Beach and Sauble Beach are heavily used during the summer months by tourists and locals for sun bathing, water sports and other recreational beach activities (e.g. beach volleyball, dog walking, kite boarding, etc.) and are subject to beach raking. Some of these sites are also adjacent to cottages and retail stores.

Lake of the Woods is located in northwestern Ontario and human use at this site is limited due to its remote nature, with access only achievable via boat. This area is subject to water level fluctuations directed by the Lake of the Woods Control Board (LWCB).

Given this information, the socio–economic analysis is presented in two parts:

  1. The socio–economic effects associated with implementing this Action Plan for the Prairie Canada Population; and
  2. The socio–economic effects associated with implementing this Action Plan for the Canadian Great Lakes Population.

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3.1. Costs

3.1.1 Prairie Canada Population

The primary socio–economic impact associated with the Prairie Canada Population (at Lake of the Woods) would be through water level management, conducted by the Lake of the Woods Control Board (LWCB), for the benefit of the Piping Plover. This could result in the loss of revenue to local stakeholders who rely on the water levels such as: hydro–electric power generation, local industry, cottagers, shoreline residents and tourism operators. The LWCB currently manages the water levels in the area to ensure that the needs and concerns of all local stakeholders who rely on the water are met.

Given the remote location of this site, costs may also be incurred while protecting nesting habitat (from predation and rising water levels) and conducting surveys for any Piping Plovers at this site. These costs are likely to be modest due to the limited number of visits required to effectively monitor or manage the site. Costs would include transportation to and from the site, material for constructing predator exclosures and staff time to conduct the work.

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3.1.2. Canadian Great Lakes Population

The habitat of the Canadian Great Lakes Population of the Piping Plover is primarily found on dune beaches. These types of beaches also tend to be used by the public for recreational purposes as discussed above; therefore, by implementing this action plan, the public could experience some restrictions in beach access or use when and where a nest is found on such recreational beaches, which may also result in a loss of revenue for local land owners, businesses, parks and municipalities who rely on public access. Additional costs may be experienced by local municipalities and agencies which maintain the beach if restrictions on beach use or beach maintenance are introduced. Beach use may be temporarily restricted or limited on certain portions of the beach due to the presence of nesting birds and associated protection measures required. These restrictions may involve the alteration of timelines for or cessation of various activities (such as beach raking, dog walking) on selected portions of the beach. For example, if a beach containing Piping Plovers is ordinarily used as an off leash dog area, the off leash dog area may be relocated until the Piping Plovers have left the beach. Another example would be the raking of the beach; beach raking may be limited or restricted in areas used by Piping Plovers to allow for the growth of vegetation and provision of hiding locations that the Piping Plovers use. These restrictions have and may continue to affect beach users and the local landowners and businesses that have property on or adjacent to the Piping Plover habitat. However, through collaboration with the landowners, and by implementing proper management techniques, restrictions are expected to be implemented only at sites with breeding Piping Plovers and may only be seasonal in nature. Ideally Environment Canada and its partners will be able to foster a change in the public's attitudes and behaviors regarding beach use and management through outreach and stewardship activities at sites with breeding Piping Plovers.

Some costs would also be associated with the installation and maintenance of the predator exclosures, including costs to erect the predator exclosure, educational signs, and to potentially provide assistance in funding a coordinator to organize volunteers to monitor the birds. Additionally, there may be some costs associated with site visits and surveys and the monitoring of known birds or nests.

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3.2. Benefits

Many of the benefits derived are non–market commodities which are difficult to quantify. Wildlife, in all its forms, has value in and of itself, and is valued by Canadians for aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreational, educational, historical, economic, medical, ecological, and scientific reasons. The conservation of wildlife at risk is an important component of the Government of Canada's commitment to conserving biological diversity. For Ontario, biodiversity is important to its current and future economy and natural wealth. A self–sustaining healthy ecosystem with its various elements in place, including species at risk, contributes positively to landowner and public livelihoods.

Results of a 1991 survey on the importance of wildlife to Canadians show that 83.3% of Canadians feel that it is very or fairly important to ensure diversity in Canadian wildlife by protecting endangered or declining wildlife populations (Filion 1993). Canadians value diverse wildlife for aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreation, educational, historical, economic, medical, ecological, and scientific reasons. This is supported by a follow–up survey that showed Ontario Residents spent approximately $4.3 billion in 1996 on nature–related activities in Canada (Federal–Provincial–Territorial Task Force on the Importance of Nature to Canadians 2000).

At locations where Piping Plover have been observed and beach use is impacted, there is potential for an increase in wildlife tourism to offset some or all of the possible decrease in tourism resulting from beach use restrictions.

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3.2.1. Prairie Canada Population

Wildlife viewing is a popular pastime and interest for many people. It is possible that the presence of the Piping Plovers could provide an increase in tourism related revenues.

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3.2.2. Canadian Great Lakes Population

A number of benefits may be realized with the implementation of this action plan. Piping Plovers nest on public beaches with high use, therefore beach grooming activities at these sites will be reduced or restricted in areas with Piping Plovers (cost–savings). In areas where habitat is protected for Piping Plovers, dune vegetation will regenerate increasing the biodiversity of native plant species and other species that would use this habitat. Dunes and their vegetation also provide several natural functions such as preventing beach loss (through beach regeneration and keeping sand on the beach); providing a natural barrier to flood and storm events thereby protecting the homes/property close by; and providing habitat for many species, including rare and endangered species. These benefits may provide a significant cost savings to residents and land managers in the area, while also promoting awareness of dune grasslands/beach ecosystems. The protection of existing natural habitats to aid in recovery is a far less expensive endeavor than creating or restoring habitat.

The presence of the Piping Plovers may also provide opportunities for citizens to be engaged in conservation initiatives through volunteering to monitor the nesting Piping Plovers and to be educated about dune protection and species at risk issues through outreach materials and interaction.

Wildlife viewing is a popular past time and interest for many people. It is possible that the presence of the Piping Plovers could provide an increase in tourism (and associated economic benefits) and provide marketing opportunities to some of the beaches where the birds are found (i.e., Sauble Beach, Wasaga Beach Provincial Park), thereby shifting revenue from other recreational activities to wildlife tourism. This has already been observed at some sites where there has been an increase in the number of wildlife observers on these beaches due to the presence of Piping Plovers.

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4. Associated Plans

The Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies is found in four provinces and an action plan is being prepared for each province. Two of these have been posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry to date:

  • Environment Canada. 2009. Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Alberta [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Action Plan Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. ii + 11 pp. with Appendix.
  • Environment Canada. 2009. Action Plan for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Saskatchewan [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Action Plan Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. vi + 24 pp. with Appendices.

All provinces will be working together with the federal government to achieve the actions set out in the associated action plans as many will overlap and jurisdictions involved will be able to learn from each other to move forward in the protection of this species.

Collaboration with the U.S. Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Team has been a key to the success and knowledge obtained by the Prairie Canada Piping Plover Recovery Team. Further sharing of knowledge regarding recovery efforts and protocols, banding, population monitoring and protection efforts will contribute to the recovery of Piping Plover in Ontario.

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References

Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Team. 2006. Alberta Piping Plover Recovery Plan, 2005–2010. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Fish and Wildlife Division, Alberta Species at Risk Recovery Plan No. 10. Edmonton, Alberta. 27 pp.

Boyne, A.W. 2001. Updated COSEWIC status report – Piping Plover Charadrius melodus. Sackville, New Brunswick. 46 pp.

Cairns, W.E. and I.A. McLaren. 1980. Status of the Piping Plover on the East Coast of North America. American Birds. 34(2):206–208.

Elliott–Smith, E. and S.M. Haig. 2004. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online.

Elliott–Smith, E., S.M. Haig, and B.M. Powers. 2009, Data from the 2006 International Piping Plover Census: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 426, 332 p.

Environment Canada. 2006. Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. 30 pp.

Environment Canada. 2007. Addendum to the Final Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodius circumcinctus) in Canada RE: Identification of Critical Habitat.

Environment Canada. 2010. Ontario Piping Plover Guardian Manual. Unpublished report. 81 pp.

Federal–Provincial–Territorial Task Force on the Importance of Nature to Canadians 2000. The Importance of Nature to Canadians: the Economic Significance of Nature–related Activities Environment Canada, Ottawa. iv. 49 pp.

Ferland, C.L. and S.M. Haig. 2002. 2001 International Piping Plover Census. U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Corvallis, Oregon, 293 pp.

Filion, F.L. 1993. The importance of wildlife to Canadians: highlights of the 1991 Survey. Environment Canada, Ottawa. 60 pp.

Flemming, S.P., R.D. Chiasson, P.C. Smith, P.J. Austin Smith, and R.P. Bancroft. 1988. Piping Plover Status in Nova Scotia Related to its Reproductive and Behavioral Responses to Human Disturbance. Journal of Field Ornithology. 59:321–330.

Goossen, J.P. and D.L. Amirault, eds.. 2002. National Recovery Plan for Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus). National Recovery Plan No. 22. Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife. Ottawa, Ontario. 47 pp.

Government of Canada. 2009. Species at Risk Act Policies, Overarching Policy Framework [Draft]. Species at Risk Act Policies and Guidelines Series. Environment Canada, Ottawa. 38 pp.

Haig, S.M. 1992. Piping Plover. In The Birds of North America, No. 2. A., Poole, P. Stettenheim and F. Gill (eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia and The American Ornithologists Union, Washington, DC.

Haig, S.M. and J.H. Plissner. 1993. Distribution and abundance of Piping Plovers: results and implications of the 1991 International Census. Condor 95: 145–156.

Haig, S.M., C.L. Ferland, F.J. Cuthbert, J. Dingledine, J.P. Goossen, A. Hecht, and N. McPhillips. 2005. A complete species census and evidence for regional declines in Piping Plovers. Journal of Wildlife Management 69: 160–173.

Heyens, L.E. 2005. The 2001 Piping Plover Census in Ontario. in J. Paul Goossen and Diane L. Amirault (eds.). The 2001 International Piping Plover Census in Canada. Technical Report Series Number 416. Canadian Wildlife Service, Edmonton and Sackville.

Lambert, A.B. 1987. Piping Plover Pluvier siffleur Charadrius melodus. Pages 162–163 in M.D. Cadman, P.F.J. Eagles, and F.M. Helleiner (compilers). Atlas of the breeding birds of Ontario. University of Waterloo Press, Waterloo, Ontario. 617 pp.

Lambert, A.B. and C.J. Risley. 1989. An investigation of the status of the Piping Plover at Lake of the Woods, Ontario. Unpublished Report to Endangered Species Recovery Fund and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. 49 pp.

Lee, H.T., W.D. Bakowsky, J. Riley, J. Bowles, M. Puddister, P. Uhlig and S. McMurray. 1998. Ecological Land Classification for Southern Ontario: First Approximation and Its Application. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Southcentral Science Section, Science Development and Transfer Branch. SCSS Field Guide FG–02.

Price, E.W. 2002. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) recolonization potential in the Great Lakes: asssessment of historic habitat and dispersal events. M.Sc. Thesis. University of Minnesota. 77 pp.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1996. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), Atlantic Coast Population, revised recovery plan. Hadley, Massachusetts. 258 pp.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2003. Recovery plan for the Great Lakes Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus). Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. 141 pp.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2009. Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) 5–Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. Hadley, Massechusetts. vi + 206 pp.

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Appendix A: Effects on the Environment and Other Species

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. The purpose of a SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision–making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that plans may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non–target species or habitats. The results of the SEA are incorporated directly into the plan itself, but are also summarized below.

This action plan will benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies. Regeneration of beach habitat (vegetation) has been observed during breeding seasons where the beaches were not groomed. This has allowed the seed bank, present in the sand, to emerge and provide additional habitat (shelter and foraging material) for other species of birds that make use of the beach. Providing protection for Piping Plover breeding habitat is likely to afford protection to other beach–dune dependent species of flora and fauna.

The potential for the plan to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. It is recognized that management of habitat for the benefit of Piping Plover populations could potentially have adverse effects on other species with differing habitat preferences (e.g. beach vegetation requirements), so any specific management prescriptions resulting from the actions in this plan should be assessed on a site–by–site basis given the needs of other species found in the immediate area.


1 The Prairie Canada Population or Prairie Population includes those birds found in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Lake of the Woods area in Ontario.

2 The Canadian Great Lakes Population includes those birds found on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes in Ontario, excluding the Lake of the Woods area.

3 A viable population has a less than 5% probability of becoming extinct within the next 100 years (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1996)

4 Recovery goal and population goal terms from Environment Canada (2006) have been replaced by population and distribution objective in this action plan.

5 The International Piping Plover Census is a comprehensive survey of Piping Plovers in North America that takes place every five years (Haig et al. 2005).

6 Reliable sources may include but are not limited to: records within the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre, records in the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, observations from acknowledged species experts, observations from recognized birders with photographic evidence, OMNR, CWS, or BSC survey reports, etc.

7 The definition of one breeding pair can include a confirmed nest, a confirmed breeding pair or a probable breeding observation. A probable breeding observation, in suitable nesting habitat during the breeding season, includes a male and female pair, a courtship or display between a male and a female or 2 males (including courtship feeding or copulation), an adult visiting a probable nest location or building a nest, agitated behaviour or anxiety calls of an adult, or breeding evidence such as a brood patch or cloacal protuberance.

8 Symbolic, or psychological, fencing is a physical perimeter to deter entry in to a particular area. It is symbolic in that it tends not to physically prevent entry (e.g. a single rope fence), but instead communicates the message that entry is prohibited or discouraged.