Tiny endangered bird species causing big commotion in Gloucester beach

GLOUCESTER, Mass. — The endangered piping plover may be small in size, but that hasn't stopped it from causing a big commotion at a local beach.

Normally, this species will nest on the beach, but this time around they've chosen the parking lot by Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester.

"It's a terrible place for them to build a nest," said Kim Smith.

Piping plovers have laid four eggs already, but the nesting location makes it harder to protect the species, something that will only become more difficult as summer arrives.

"So they nest, and the whole world stops for these birds," said Michael Lucas.

Kim Smith has been studying the birds since they came to Gloucester three years ago. She says that, with all the dogs and people on the beach, the birds couldn't find a safe place to nest, so they chose a white line in the parking lot where they can still camouflage.

"They're very tiny, pretty little birds, they're only three inches tall," said Karen Burgess, of Gloucester.

The tiny birds are tough to spot in the sand, which is why volunteers are so busy trying to protect this endangered species, especially while they mate.

"It's pretty stressful for the birds to have large groups of people around," said Smith.

Smith says several agencies have built a barrier around the plovers nest to protect the eggs while they hatch over the next month. The problem, however, is that the barrier takes up about 30 parking spots at Good Harbor Beach, a frustration for anyone visiting the beach.

"The ones coming from out of state don't know about the birds, and then they'll come in and find out that they can't park because there's 30 spots being given up for a bird," said Lucas.

A big portion of the beach has also been blocked off for the birds' safety.

With only 2,000 to 3,000 of them left in the world, volunteers hope beach goers will understand the measures taken to keep them safe.

"People are so interested in protecting wildlife in Africa but right here in our own backyard we have this beautiful, beautiful, tiny, tiny little shore bird that's on the brink of extinction," said Smith.