It’s peak beak season in the Rockaways.
The Plover Day Festival, a celebration of the resurging-but-still-endangered piping plover, will kick off Saturday at noon at Beach 86th Street and Shorefront Parkway in Queens.
“Annual plover day is an opportunity for the community to learn more about what we’re doing out there and why we’re doing it,” said Sarah Aucoin, chief of wildlife education for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
The three-hour affair will include educational activities and games, as well as opportunities to observe the fickle fowl in the flesh.
Piping plovers were not known to nest on Rockaway Beach before they were spotted in 1996, Aucoin said. The sand-colored birds, which arrive in early-April, initially claimed an area of beach that was not open for swimming during the summer. For the past 22 years, due to their threatened status at the federal level and endangered status at the state level, the Rockaways has fenced off that swath of beach to protect the camouflaged sand nests. Beach 38th to Beach 57th streets is closed this year.
The parks department’s efforts appear to be working, as annual productivity surpassed expectation again this year.
“We measure success by looking at productivity, so in other words how many chicks does each pair fledge. If we just had one pair and they fledged two chicks, that would be very high productivity,” Aucoin said.
The number of pairs — 20 this year — has also steadily increased, as so-called productivity remains among the highest in the region.
“For such a busy beach … to also be able to protect endangered, flash-threatened birds is a really wonderful balancing act,” Aucoin said.
Once the majority of chicks are able to fly, the parks department will reopen the shoreline.
“We try to balance the needs of people and the plovers,” Aucoin said. “As soon as they fledge we open up the beach.”