The Trail is home to the Piping Plover, an endangered shorebird that needs vast stretches of undisturbed beach. They are sand-colored on the back and white below. During the breeding season, adults have a black forehead band between the eyes and a single black band around the neck. (Its larger relative, the Killdeer, is commonly seen at parks, playgrounds, and golf courses, and has two dark bands around the neck.) Piping Plovers nest only on beaches and prefer beaches with cobble. There are three small populations: one in the Great Plains, one on the Atlantic Coast, and the one here in the Great Lakes. They winter together on the Gulf Coast but travel to the separate areas during the breeding season. It is a special opportunity to be able to observe Piping Plovers since there are only between 50 and 60 nesting pairs in the entire Great Lakes area and less than 5000 individuals worldwide. For more detailed information on the habits of the Piping Plover, see the Piping Plover page on the National Park Service’s website.
Please help protect Piping Plovers. Observe and obey the closed area fences and watch and enjoy them from a distance. Keep dogs and other pets on leashes and out of areas of the beach closed to pets. Don’t feed gulls or leave food on the beach. This increases the gull population and attracts predators to the area that will also prey on Piping Plovers. If you find a Plover family outside of the fencing give them some space. The small chicks can disappear quickly in sand or cobble and are easily stepped on. Watch for and report sightings of Piping Plovers nesting in new areas. If you see anyone harassing Piping Plovers please report it to Sleeping Bear Dunes Headquarters. (231-326-5134)