Kentish plover

The endangered Kentish plover, Charadrius alexandrinus, is in sharp decline throughout Europe. Without protection, this pale little shorebird might disappear from the continent entirely.

Kentish plovers lay their eggs in a hole dug in the sand 20 to 40 yards from the surf, where flotsam and sparse vegetation provide shelter and camouflage. They may nest several times between April and August. The chicks are able to move away from the nest just a few hours after hatching; like the eggs, they are well camouflaged on the sandy beach.

Today, there are only a few places that still host this species, which is highly sensitive to human disturbance. Nests are destroyed by machinery used to level and clean the beaches. Others are lost to people and dogs; unfortunately, most people go to the beach without even noticing nests or nestlings.

In Italy, volunteers and ornithologists protect nests with simple but effective actions and often creative solutions. The most important have been marking the edge of the dunes, installing anti-predatory cages over nests, removing discarded fishing line and hooks, human monitoring, controlling dogs, educating beach-goers on social media, and forging alliances with stakeholders and institutions. In one of the best examples of such work, the Centro Ornitologico Toscano (COT), in cooperation with park authorities, has been monitoring the nesting Kentish plovers throughout Migliarino-San Rossore-Massaciuccoli Regional Park for years, providing vital data to guide the actions taken to protect the birds. Designated areas have been marked off, and monitoring allows the plovers to nest in safety. An effective information campaign has helped people understand that the conservation of these exceptional beaches requires only a little attention on their part.