Prince Edward Island National Park is located along the north (Gulf of St. Lawrence) shore of central Prince Edward Island. It is comprised of more than 40 km of shoreline that extends for the most part less than 1 km inland, except where the waters of enclosed bays have been included in the park. Most of the park consists of sand dunes and sand spits, with salt marsh along the landward edges (facing the enclosed bays). The main beaches and sandspits within the park include: Cavendish Sandspit, North Rustico Beach, Rustico Island Sandspit, Rustico Island Causeway, Brackley Main Beach, Covehead Harbour, Blooming Point, and Greenwich. A section of coastal cliffs (about 10 km long) is located to the east of Cavendish Sandspit. The climate consists of relatively warm summers and long winters that are notably windy.
Collectively, the beaches at Prince Edward National Park support one of the largest concentrations of nesting Piping Plovers in Atlantic Canada. From 1991 to 1997, an average of 17 nesting pairs were recorded, during detailed surveys completed by park personnel. A peak of 23 nesting pairs was recorded in 1991, and a low of 12 nesting pairs was recorded in 1995. Initial survey results from 1998 suggest an increase in the nesting population. Piping Plovers have been identified as globally Vulnerable by the IUCN, and in Canada are designated as nationally Endangered by COSEWIC. The breeding population at Prince Edward Island National Park represents about 1.3% of the North American Atlantic Coast population, and as much as 8.3% of the Canadian Atlantic Coast population.
Prince Edward National Park also supports large numbers of Canada Geese from the Labrador / Newfoundland population during both spring and fall migration. Their general usage pattern involves roosting and loafing along the coast and in the bays, with daily foraging trips to inland agricultural fields. The spring population of Newfoundland and Labrador Canada Geese (ssp. canadensis) is estimated at about 115,000 birds, and has remained relatively stable over the last 15 years. Aerial surveys regularly record 2-3% of this subspecies estimated population in the park area. Considering the turnover that occurs during migration, a much larger proportion of the population likely uses the area during the entire season.
Since the late 1970s, participants in the Maritimes Shorebird Survey (MSS) have periodically surveyed the site. MSS protocol requires volunteers to count shorebirds every second weekend during the period of southward migration from late July to late October. So, seasonal totals from the MSS represent the total number of birds seen on as many as seven one-day counts. In 1985, 531 Black-bellied Plovers were recorded, while in 1998, 300 American Golden Plovers and 1,495 Semipalmated Plovers (over 1%, and perhaps 3% of the total population of this species) were observed. In other years, numbers of Semipalmated Plovers were lower, with an average of 425 birds recorded annually by the MSS. Also in 1985, 310 Greater Yellowlegs, and in 1998, 2,002 Least Sandpipers were observed. Numbers of all shorebirds seen varied enormously, with high counts quoted here.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: PEI National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 16/01/2021.