Nesting Season Means Some Restrictions at Cape Lookout National Seashore

Nesting season has arrived for piping plovers at Cape Lookout National Seashore, which has instituted some closures to protect the tiny shorebirds. USGS photo.

Piping plovers find the beaches along Cape Lookout National Seashore to offer some great nesting opportunities. As a result, seashore officials have placed some areas off-limits during the threatened bird's nesting season, which runs through August.

Superintendent Russel J. Wilson says those areas seem as vital to nesting plovers have been posted. The nesting season for piping plovers and other beach nesting birds extends from April 1 to August 31. The nine sites on the Core Banks include Portsmouth Flats, High Hills, Kathryn-Jane Flats, Old Drum Inlet area, New Drum Inlet area, old Ophelia Island, north tip of South Core Banks, Cape Point, and Power Squadron Spit. In general at these posted sites the upper beach and interior are off limits to pedestrians, dogs, and vehicles while the lower beach and shoreline are open, park officials say. Other sites may be posted as necessary.

The low dunes and sandy flats provide ground nesting habitat and adjacent wet sand provides foraging for these birds. About three-quarters of the nesting piping plovers in North Carolina are found at Cape Lookout National Seashore. The area around Ophelia Inlet had the greatest concentration of piping plover nests in 2009 and is the single most important site for the survival of this bird in North Carolina.

A temporary vehicle closure on the ocean beach at the north tip of South Core Banks will be established for bird chicks. After nests hatch, piping plover chicks can travel over one-quarter mile from nesting areas seeking areas to feed. Chicks moving to the ocean beach are in danger of being run over by off-road vehicles and have difficulty moving through deep ruts in the sand created by vehicles.

The closure will be in place only during the period before the chicks are able to fly. The timeframe will likely be from late May to late July depending on the dates the nests hatch. Other vehicle shoreline closures may be established for chicks if necessary. Detours and speed restrictions may be used to manage vehicles around bird chicks at other sites.

Other ground nesting birds that benefit from bird closures include the American oystercatcher, Wilson plover, common tern, gull-billed tern, least tern, and black skimmer. Please help these birds by respecting the posted bird areas and keeping pets on leash at all times in the seashore.

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Piping Plover Factsheet.pdf436.63 KB