Monday, September 12, 2011

Episode 79 (September 12, 2011): Piping Plover

Click to listen to episode (2:13).

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 12, 2011.

This week we feature another mystery sound.  Have a listen for about 20 seconds, and see if you can guess what’s making the “pip” and “peep” sounds.  And here’s a hint:  This small shorebird has a strong set of pipes.


If you guessed a Piping Plover, you’re right!  You've been listening to some of the calls this species uses for courtship, contact between mates, aggression, or alarm.  One of several species of plovers in North America, Piping Plovers are found during their breeding season on the barrier islands of Virginia’s Eastern Shore and on beaches around Hampton Roads.  This five-inch-tall bird feeds on crustaceans, mollusks, insects, worms, and other marine animals.  Piping Plovers have been listed as threatened in Virginia and other areas since the 1980s.  That status has led to many years of population research by Virginia scientists, including current work by Virginia Tech’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation on the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Piping Plovers’ wintering grounds around the Gulf of Mexico.  Thanks to Lang Elliott of NatureSound Studio for permission to use this week’s recording.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

Acknowledgments:  Alyssa Hart helped write this week’s show.  The Piping Plover recording was from Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes, Time Warner Audio Books, copyright 1997, used with permission of Lang Elliott.

Sources for this episode: Information on Piping Plovers was taken from A Guide to Field Identification of Birds of North America, by Chandler S. Robbins et al. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001, p.114); A Guide to Endangered and Threatened Species in Virginia, by Karen Terwilliger et al. (Blacksburg: MacDonald and Woodward, 1995, p.164); Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Fish and Wildlife Information Service Web site at (accessed 9/12/11); “Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus),” by E. Elliott-Smith and S.M. Haig (2004), from Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s Birds of North America Online Web site at (accessed 9/12/11); A Storm and a Study Save Piping Plovers, by Holly Kays, Virginia Tech Magazine, Winter 2011; and Virginia Tech gets $3.4 million for Gulf oil spill study on plovers , Virginia Tech News, 11/2/10.

Other information (added at date indicated)
5/4/15 - Piping Plover field data smartphone app: On May 4, 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey announced iPlover, a phone app to help scientists coordinated data collection on Piping Plovers.  More information on the tools is available in Shorebird Science? iPlover is the App for That, U.S. Geological Survey News Release, 5/4/15.

11/20/15 - U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Study on decreasing Piping Plover habitat in Prairie Pothole region of North Dakota: Piping Plovers Losing Breeding Habitat to Wetland Drainage, USGS News Release, 11/19/15.

Recent Virginia Water News
            For news relevant to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Virginia Water Central News Grouper, available online at

Water Meetings and Other Events
            For events related to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Quick Guide to Virginia Water–related Conferences, Workshops, and  Other Events, online at  The site includes a list of Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring in the coming week.