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Piping Plover(Charadrius melodus circumcinctus)

Species at Risk Act

Recovery Strategy Series

Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover

(Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada

Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies

the Piping Plover

About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series

What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)? 

SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk inCanada. SARA came into force in 2003, and one of its purposes is “to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.” 

What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.

What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. Sections 37–46 of SARA ( outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series.

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically listed when SARA came into force.

What’s next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty.

The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated.

To learn more 

To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the SARA PublicRegistry ( and the Web site of the Recovery Secretariat  (

  Recovery Strategy for the Piping Plover

(Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) in Canada

  October 2006



Piping Plover

 Recommended citation:

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.

Additional copies:

Additional copies can be downloaded from the SARA Public Registry ( ).

Cover illustration:Judie Shore

Également disponible en français sous le titre

« Programme de rétablissement du Pluvier siffleur (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) au Canada »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of the Environment, 2006. All rights reserved.

ISBN 0-662-44251-2

Cat. no. En3-4/9-2006E-PDF

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


This recovery strategy has been prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions responsible for the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies. Environment Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies, as required under the Species at Risk Act. This recovery strategy also constitutes advice to other jurisdictions and organizations that may be involved in recovering the species.

The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on the best existing knowledge and are subject to modifications resulting from new findings and revised objectives.

This recovery strategy will be the basis for one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation and recovery of the species. The Minister of the Environment will report on progress within five years.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Environment Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of the Environment invites all responsible jurisdictions and Canadians to join Environment Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the Piping Plover, circumcinctus subspecies and Canadian society as a whole.


Environment Canada

Parks Canada Agency

Government of Alberta

Government of Manitoba

Government of Ontario

Government of Saskatchewan


This strategy was prepared by Diane C. Martens and J. Paul Goossen in consultation with the Prairie Piping Plover Recovery Team.


We would like to acknowledge the significant effort of the Prairie Piping Plover Recovery Team (chair: Paul Goossen, Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region) in the preparation of this recovery strategy: Ken De Smet (Manitoba Conservation), Cheri Gratto-Trevor (Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region), Susan Haig (Oregon State University/United States Geological Survey), Leo Heyens (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources), Doug Johnson (Saskatchewan Watershed Authority), Karen Kreil (United States Fish and Wildlife Service), Sue McAdam (Saskatchewan Environment), Glen McMaster (Saskatchewan Watershed Authority), Debbie Nielsen (SaskPower), Ken Porteous (Manitoba Conservation), and Dave Prescott (Alberta Sustainable Resource Development).

We also thank Diane Amirault (Canadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region), Bill Bristol (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration), Jim Duncan (Manitoba Conservation), Bob Murphy (United States Fish and Wildlife Service), Kevin Murphy (Saskatchewan Environment), Erica Nol (Trent University), and Jeff Robinson (Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Region) for advice and review comments. Thanks are extended to Sharilyn Westworth (Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region) for assistance and also, Dave Duncan (Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region), Renee Franken (Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region), Ray Poulin (Canadian Wildlife Service, Prairie and Northern Region), Kirsten Querbach (Parks Canada Agency, Ontario Service Center), and Canadian Wildlife Service, Habitat Conservation Section and Canadian Wildlife Service, Recovery Section who provided advice on format and content in the development of this document.


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 strategies 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 strategy itself, but are also summarized below.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the Piping Plover. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects. The reader should refer to the following sections of the document in particular: 1.7 Description of Species Needs; 1.8 Threats; 2.4 Approaches Recommended to Meet Recovery Objectives; and 2.6 Effects on Other Species.


SARA defines residence as: a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating [Subsection 2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry:


The Piping Plover is a migratory bird covered under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and is under the management jurisdiction of the federal government. The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered, or threatened species. The Piping Plover was designated as Endangered by COSEWIC in 2001 and officially listed under SARA in June 2003. The Canadian Wildlife Service – Prairie and Northern Region, Environment Canada, led the development of this recovery strategy. The strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39–41). It was developed in cooperation or consultation with:

·       all provincial jurisdictions in which the species occurs -- Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta;

·       the federal government -- Canadian Wildlife Service (National Capital Region, Ontario Region, Prairie and Northern Region);

·       environmental non-government organizations -- Nature Saskatchewan;

·       industry stakeholders -- SaskPower, Saskatchewan Watershed Authority; and

·       the United States via representation on the Prairie Piping Plover Recovery Team.

This will be the first recovery strategy for the circumcinctus subspecies of the Piping Plover posted on the SARA Public Registry. A strategy for the melodus subspecies of the Piping Plover, found in eastern Canada, will be published separately.


The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus circumcinctus) is listed as endangered in Canada (Boyne 2001), threatened in the U.S. Northern Great Plains, and endangered in the Great Lakes region of the United States (Sidle 1985). The 2001 International Piping Plover Census estimated the Great Lakes and Northern Great Plains/Prairies populations at 3026 adults. Of these, 974 adults (32%) were in Canada (Ferland and Haig 2002). The Piping Plover has a small population with a wide distribution and faces continued threats. The greatest threats to recovery are predation, habitat loss, and human disturbance. Recovery will require continued management.

The recovery goal for the Prairie Canada population is a minimum of 1626 adult Piping Plovers (813 pairs) during each of three consecutive international censuses (i.e., over 11 years). The minimum provincial population targets (adults) are as follows: Alberta 300; Saskatchewan 1200; Manitoba 120; and Ontario (Lake of the Woods) 6. This should allow for the downlisting of Charadrius melodus circumcinctus by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) to the threatened category. For the Canadian Great Lakes population, the hope is that the Piping Plover, now extirpated as a breeding species from that area, will reestablish itself. This will depend largely on the success and dispersal of the population in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Population goals for the Canadian Great Lakes plovers will be proposed after recolonization of that region has occurred.

The recovery goal will be achieved primarily through habitat protection and increased productivity. Habitat will be protected through enforcement of protective regulations and conservation and stewardship agreements. Productivity will be increased through predator management, cattle management, and reducing human disturbance at plover sites.

Critical habitat is not being identified in this recovery strategy. Although several attributes and criteria have been described to assist in identifying critical habitat, there is a lack of knowledge on the specific locations that meet these criteria. Identification of critical habitat sites will be done within subsequent action plans.

To increase this subspecies’ chance of survival and recovery, a better understanding of the movement of breeding birds between Canada and the United States, of threats on the wintering and breeding grounds, and of the wintering distribution, including in Mexico, is necessary. This will require effective international cooperation. The status of the U.S. population will be critical in considering downlisting the Canadian population.

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