2005-07-22 / Community

These Beaches Have Gone to the Birds

By Alyssa Goldstein


A drawing of a Piping Plover, much like the birds that nest on some local beaches, closing the beaches to residents.A drawing of a Piping Plover, much like the birds that nest on some local beaches, closing the beaches to residents. There will be face painting, contests, family fun and, perhaps most importantly, lots of endangered birds.

Not your usual Rockaway story, unless you realize that the beaches that the endangered birds have chosen to nest on are on a stretch of Rockaway’s premier beach, from Beach 38 to Beach 58 Streets.

And, the event that will be held this Saturday, July 23, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. will be designated as “Plover Day” to attempt to show Rockaway residents why they have lost their beaches this summer to the small birds.

Sergeants Sheridan Roberts and Bonnie McGuire are responsible for the safety of the local plovers.Sergeants Sheridan Roberts and Bonnie McGuire are responsible for the safety of the local plovers. “We decided to try and educate the residents about the small birds when somebody stole about ten eggs recently,” said Urban Park Ranger Sergeant Sheridan Roberts. “The person who did it was just curious about the birds and perhaps wanted to hatch them himself.”

The interloper was arrested under federal law by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Perhaps they wanted to sell them over Ebay,” Roberts said with a laugh.

Plovers, which are small sand-colored endangered species of birds, have become a nuisance to beach goers in Rockaway simply because the birds presence put large parts of their beaches off limits to both bathers and those who simply want to sit or walk on the beach.

The Piping Plovers were fairly common along the Atlantic Coast throughout the 19 th century but started to dissipate due to hunting. And though the numbers started to increase in the early 20th century they once again began to dwindle due to recreational uses of beaches.

Plovers became protected under the Endangered Species Act on January 10, 1986.

They usually arrive in March, and are fenced in until late August or September. Plovers will lay about three or four eggs, which take up to 25 days to hatch.

The plovers started coming to beach 38 - 58 streets in 1983. The first year they came there were five pairs. Last year there were 21 pairs and this year there are 14 pairs. One of the many reasons they make Rockaway Beach their home away from home is that the beach is fairly wild, not turned over, according to Roberts, making it a good place to take shelter.

The beach offers a good supply of food for the plovers, which is mainly exposed wet sand, their meal of choice.

Many people are upset that the birds are causing the closure of parts of the beach, according to park rangers Roberts and her partner, Sergeant Bonnie McGuire. They say “people don’t understand why they can’t jog or surf.”

These acts against the birds are what have inspired the Urban Park Rangers to come up with “Plover Day.” Activities will include a best nest concert, seashell creature craft, face painting, wildlife walks and much more.

The Urban Park Rangers are hoping to educate people about plovers, allowing them to understand why they need the beaches and what can be done to get them off of the endangered species list.

There are currently 1600 pairs of Plovers on the East Coast but the Federal Government says there needs to be 2000 breeding pairs for five years in order for them to not be considered an endangered species.

Plovers are not the only endangered birds; there are the Least tern, the Common tern and the American Oyster Catcher. There are also two types of endangered plants, the Sea beach Amarauth and the Sea Beach Knotweed.

“It’s important to realize that this beach is big enough for all of us,” the rangers say.

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