Conservation Success Stories

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

After rebounding from declines resulting from hunting pressure in the 1800s (as a function of the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act - MBTA - in 1918), Piping Plovers began to decline again as the result of the development and increased recreational use of coastal zones and shorelines that followed World War II. Habitat destruction continues to be the primary threat to Piping Plovers, whose nests and young are also destroyed by off-road vehicles and water management practices. Piping Plover numbers have declined significantly since 1966, but intensive conservation efforts - particularly habitat protection and management programs - following protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA; in 1986) have resulted in stabilized, and slowly increasing, populations in some regions. For example, in 1986, only approximately 126 pairs of Piping Plovers nested in Massachusetts; by 2003, there were an estimated 530 pairs (Hecker 2006). Management of coastal habitats for both recreation and wildlife is at the core of the increased Piping Plover population in MA. The Trustees of Reservations' Crane Beach, in Ipswich, includes more than 1200 acres of beachfront, dunes, and maritime forest, and has become one of the world's most important nesting sites for Piping Plovers.


Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Brown Pelicans had been killed by the thousands in the late 1800s and early 1900s by people wanting their feathers for hats and blaming them for decimating commercial fishery profits. Passage in 1918 of the MBTA - the first major statute protecting seabirds - and the documentation of the negligible effects of pelicans on commercial fisheries helped curb illegal killing (USFWS 2006a). Yet Brown Pelican numbers then plummeted in response to the advent and subsequent widespread use of DDT and other pesticides in the 1940s. DDT was being incorporated into the bodies of fish living in run-off areas, and the eggshells of female pelicans eating contaminated fish were so thin that eggs were crushed during incubation. In 1970, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Brown Pelican as Endangered; a status that engenders intensive protective measures. In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency placed heavy restrictions on the use of pesticides, and banned the use of DDT in the U.S. Brown Pelicans were one of the first species to recover from pesticide regulation (USFWS 2006a). Although Brown Pelicans remain vulnerable to anthropogenic factors such as oil spills and improper disposal of fishing line and hooks, some regional populations are doing well enough to be considered for de- and down-listing by USFWS (USFWS 2006b).


American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)

As far back as the 1930s, the deleterious effects of hunting on American Black Duck (ABD) populations had been acknowledged. Hunting pressure continued, however, as successful attempts to regulate the numbers of ABDs taken by hunters took decades to put in place. Hundreds of thousands of American Black Ducks were shot annually through the early 1980s in Atlantic Flyway states alone (Longcore and Clugston 2006). The continued decline of ABDs provided the impetus for the restrictive hunting regulations adopted in the U.S. in 1983 and Canada in 1986 (Longcore and Clugston 2006). Large-scale clearing of forests for agriculture and development has also negatively affected this species of woodland lakes - such practices have provided suitable habitat for Mallards, which move in and effectively take over ABD populations. The proclivity of the two species to hybridize also contributes to declines of ABDs (National Audubon Society 2002). The rate of loss of ABD wetland habitat has slowed in recent years and hunting regulations have resulted in documented decreases in harvest levels (e.g., Longcore and Clugston 2006), and ABD regional populations have begun to stabilize and even increase (Longcore and Clugston 2006, Bordage et al. 2003).


Birdlife International. 2006. Piping Plover - Birdlife Species Factsheet. (accessed 3/31/06)

Bordage, D, C Lepage, and S Orichefsky. 2003.  Black Duck Joint Venture Helicopter Survey in Quebec. Canadian Wildlife Service, Quebec Region, Annual Report 2003. (accessed 4/7/06)

Haig, SM. 1992.  Piping Plover. In the Birds of North America, No. 2. (A Poole, P Stettenheim, and F Gill, Eds.) Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington DC: The American Ornithologist's Union.

Hecker, S. 2006.  Piping Plover Fact Sheet. National Audubon Society, Audubon Coastal Bird Conservation Program.

Lepage, C. and D. Bordage. 2003.  Black Duck Joint Venture (BDJV). Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Quebec Region. Annual Report 2003. (accessed 4/3/06)

Longcore, JR, and DA Clugston. 2006.  American Black Duck. U.S. Geological Survey, Status and Trends of the Nation's Biological Resources. ( (accessed 4/3/06)

National Audubon Society. 2002.  American Black Duck. Bird Conservation, Audubon Watchlist, View Watchlist. ( (accessed 4/3/06)

National Audubon Society. 2002.  Piping Plover. Bird Conservation, Audubon Watchlist, View Watchlist. ( (accessed 4/7/06)

Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. 2006.  The Pelican Project: A Success Story. ( (accessed 4/3/06)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006a.  Endangered Species: Brown Pelican. ( (accessed 4/3/06)

 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006b. Species Profile: Brown Pelican. Status Details (accessed 4/3/06)