Cheryl Santa Maria
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has announced the completion of six new conservation projects in New Brunswick’s Tabusintac and Neguac bays. A stretch of salt marsh, forest and bog habitat are now protected areas, providing refuge for critically endangered species.
According to the group, the beaches and dunes around the bays are breeding habitats for endangered piping plovers and act as migration sites for a variety of bird species.
The protected area encompasses 30 hectares of space.
There are a variety of reasons the piping plover is on the endangered species list. While not all of them are specific to New Brunswick, providing protection to the bird’s breeding grounds may provide a boost to struggling population numbers.
A recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that toxins in the Great Lakes are killing birds at an alarming rate, and the piping plover appears to be one of the more vulnerable species.
Since 1999, it’s estimated that more than 100,000 birds have died from avian botulism in this region.
The disease attacks the nervous system leading to paralysis and, often, death by drowning.
While the piping plover can still be spotted on coastal beaches in eastern Canada, the birds have practically vanished from Ontario.
Water toxins aren’t the only threat that has put this species at risk. Natural predators — like foxes and crows — and severe weather have also played a role in their decline.
Piping plovers build their nests along gravel shorelines, making them vulnerable to spring tides and severe storms.
The Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) added the piping plover to its endangered species list in 1985, nearly thirty years ago.