Duxbury Birds Cause a Stir

Duxbury Birds Cause a Stir


By Lizzy Creamer

Duxbury Beach has hired endangered species monitors to monitor and observe nests of Piping Plovers as well as keep them safe from cars, pedestrians, and dogs.

Adult Piping Plover

In the past years Duxbury Beach has restricted it’s off road vehicle (ORV) limit in order to protect the federally protected endangered species Piping Plovers which nest on Duxbury Beach.

A June 29th, 2016 press release from the Duxbury Harbormaster states “Of the approximately 11,000 linear feet available in the ORV corridor, all but 3,240 linear feet linear feet have been restricted.”

The beach usually holds 500 ORVs, but was reduced to almost half that while plovers walked the beach. The press release states: “At this time, the number of off road vehicles allowed on Duxbury Beach has been limited to 270 TOTAL. Specifically, these limitations allow for only 135 resident vehicles and 135 non-resident vehicles.”

Two Piping Plover chicks

The birds begin to migrate back to the US from their winter stay in Argentina around April-May to lay their eggs. Chicks begin to hatch around June-July, and fledge, or mature to a point of no longer needing external protection, by the end of the Summer in August.

Adult birds usually lay 3-4 eggs on their first attempt of the year, but will only lay 1-2 eggs if their first attempt proved to be a failure (eaten by wild animals or crushed by humans, dogs, and/or cars.)

They don’t have actual nests that they build but what they do have are called “scratches,” or a nest dug into the sand for eggs to be laid in. Males dig these nests and sometimes decorate them with shells, twigs, and other novelties they find to attract a mate.

Adult Piping Plover

In 2016 there were 22 nests being monitored on Duxbury beach, a slight improvement in comparison to 2015’s 21 nests, but progress is progress. Monitors are employed from late May through the end of August until all the nests have fully fledged chicks ready to migrate.

Monitors are employed by the Duxbury Harbormaster but work in collaboration with Massachusetts Audubon Society (Mass Audubon). Mass Audubon employees walk the beach and count the number of nests, adults, and chicks multiple times a week, and worked with the Duxbury Beach Committee to construct the Endangered Species Monitor program.

Parent and chick

The responsibilities of a monitor include observing and noting the nest’s eating habits, location, and movement throughout a 6.5 hour shift. Morning shifts lasted from 6am-1pm and afternoon shifts were scheduled 12pm-8pm leaving a one hour overlap to allow the first monitor to direct their replacement to the nest.

Monitors are also responsible for directing pedestrians, dogs, and car’s away from restricted areas. Often monitors are met with disgruntled beach-goers whom are rather frustrated at the restrictions, understandably, but they’re just doing their job.

Slow it down!

This upcoming summer please remember to be kind to monitors as they are only doing their job to protect a federally protected endangered species, and the Harbormaster tries their best to enforce minimal restrictions on the beach. Also remember that accidentally/purposely killing a bird can result a fine reaching $250,000.


For those of you who are interested in becoming a monitor this summer, fill out an application and turn it into the Duxbury Harbormaster office at 25 Mattakeesett Ct, Duxbury, MA prior to April 2017.

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