Nature Saskatchewan is taking the time to encourage southwest residents to keep an eye out for piping plovers as school lets out for the summer and families head to the beaches.

Despite these small, grey and white shore birds being listed as endangered since 1985, Saskatchewan is home to the largest breeding population of piping plovers in the world.

Emily Putz, habitat stewardship coordinator for Plovers on Shore, Shrubs for Shrikes, and the Stewards of Saskatchewan banner program at Nature Saskatchewan, noted that adult piping plovers have a black headband and a black neckband, looking similar to killdeer, who have two neckbands.

"They like beaches that don't have a lot of vegetation that are sandy and they nest right on the shoreline," said Putz. "We also like those beaches, so it means plovers can come into conflict with people as we're enjoying those beaches as well in the summertime."

Piping plovers are already nesting in the sand of beaches, where the parents protect the nest and incubate it for 28 days before the chicks are born around June to early July. 

"It's just being mindful that we are sharing these spaces with these small creatures that can use our help," she noted. "Something as insignificant as a deep footprint to us can mean life or death if a small chick falls and is trapped in it."

One of the most significant threats facing this species is human activity, such as ATVs or letting dogs off-leash.

"They're a really special bird, I hope people have fun on the beaches and let us know if they see any," added Putz.

Anyone who spots a piping plover can report the sighting by calling the HOOT line at 1 (800) 667 - 4668 or contact the Plovers on Shore Program at (306) 780 - 9832.

Information provided is used to track and learn more about the species and caller information is always private.