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Wildlife groups are reporting a record number of piping plovers in Maine this summer

An adult piping plover runs along a beach as waves lap on the shore in the background, in the Quonochontaug Conservation Area, in Westerly, R.I., on July 12, 2007. (Steven Senne/AP)
An adult piping plover runs along a beach as waves lap on the shore in the background, in the Quonochontaug Conservation Area, in Westerly, R.I., on July 12, 2007. (Steven Senne/AP)

Wildlife groups in Maine are reporting a record number of piping plovers nesting in Maine's beaches this summer.

The shorebirds were listed as endangered in the 1980s, as predators and habitat loss threatened the population, which fell to fewer than a dozen nesting pairs.

But Laura Zitske, a wildlife biologist at Maine Audubon, said that this summer, 140 nesting pairs of plovers raised 252 chicks to the point where they could fly this summer — both records.

"It's pretty incredible. It's number that...those of us that have been monitoring these birds for a long time still have a hard time wrapping our heads around it, some times," Zitske said.

Zitske said that the recovery has been possible because of partnerships between the state, local municipalities, organizations and volunteers that have worked to protect plover nests with signs and enclosures.

"I think that hard work, it doesn't always pay off right away. But it really does pay off over time," she said.

Zitske said that while she's pleased with the latest numbers, only about 2,000 pairs are remaining along the Atlantic coast, and substantial work is left to assist the species. She said that piping plover populations aren't doing as well in Canada or the southern U.S., which make Maine's efforts even more important.

The shorebirds are still listed as endangered under the Maine Endangered Species Act, and the population along the East Coast is federally listed as threatened.

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by Maine Public.

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