New England

Piping Plovers Nearly Scrap Maine Town's July 4 Fireworks Show

The fireworks display had to be canceled last week because of their nest

The July Fourth fireworks display in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, will go on as planned after some piping plovers almost caused a cancellation.

A plover nest sits just 400 feet from the town's fireworks launch site, right on the beach behind the Palace Playland amusement park. Old Orchard Beach is a draw for tourists from all over New England and Eastern Canada, and the Fourth is one of the biggest times of its busiest times of year.

Last week, a plover was still protecting unhatched eggs there, which forced town officials to cancel the weekly fireworks display.

"This is a federal crime if these birds die, and you're sort of responsible for it," Old Orchard Town Manager Larry Mead said.

Bird experts determined it was too risky to detonate loud fireworks so close by because loud noises can scare plover parents away from the nesting area, which has happened in nearby Biddeford, Maine, once before.

Though those chicks survived, the plovers are a federally protected endangered species, with only about 200 in Maine.

Their numbers have increased to a record 87 nesting pairs in the past few years, according to Laura Minich Zitske, director of the Piping Plover & Least Tern Project at Maine Audubon.

"Even though we have a record high, 200 birds is not a lot," she said.

Luckily for the residents and tourists in town, in the time between last Thursday and this Wednesday, the birds hatched and moved away from the nest.

The birds are still on the beach and visitors should watch out for them, Minich Zitske, but within days, they can travel as far as four miles, which means there is no need to stop the July Fourth show.

"There definitely would've been some blowback," said Mead, who added that the situation is the best possible outcome for tourists and the birds.

He does, tongue-in-cheek, hope they reconsider their nesting location next year.

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