Protecting Terns and Plovers


Since 2012, the Group has monitored 20 known or potential breeding sites on the North Fork (Town of Southold) for Piping Plover (Endangered in NYS) and Least Tern (Threatened in NYS). The N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has listed both as Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Threats include shore hardening (bulkheads), beach raking, pets (dogs), predators (gulls), and climate change (sea level rise). 

Group staff develops an annual management plan for the program, which is coordinated with biologists from DEC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The program has five components: 


  • Late March – early April: setup symbolic string fence and signs to notify the public about potential breeding areas; arrange access with property owners if nesting occurs on private beaches. 
  • Mid April – late July: sites are monitored weekly until a nest is located and daily visits are required; nest exclosures are placed around plover nests to ensure the safety of adults and eggs from predators.
  • Late April – mid-June: a two-part educational program called “Be A Good Egg” occurs in the classroom for background on the project and culminates with a visit to an active breeding site.
  • Late July – mid-September: fences and signs are retrieved from all sites and a final report consisting of productivity, site evaluations, and recommendations is produced for the Town and DEC to make future management decisions.  


​Least tern (Sternula antillarum)

​Piping plover (Charadrius melodus)