The piping plover is an endangered species in New York that migrates to the Rockaways each year. Some of these small birds fly to the city from as far as the Caribbean.

"By design, they are supposed to be hard to see," said Sunny Corrao, an associate wildlife biologist at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

What You Need To Know

  • The piping plover is an endangered species in New York state

  • The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and NYC Plover Project started a pilot program this summer to help protect the birds

  • The pilot program consists of a group of volunteers that educate residents on how their actions can impact the bird's survival
  • The Department of Parks and Recreation says the bird's extinction could cause an "ecosystem collapse"

The Department of Parks and Recreation has monitored the piping plover since the 1990s. But a new neighborhood pilot program in Edgemere is trying to rope off nesting areas on the beach.

Mel Julien, a community liaison for the NYC Plover Project, leads a group of volunteers in the program. They keep watch at the beach when the Department of Parks and Recreation is off-duty.

The American Bird Conservancy says there are 8,000 plovers. The bird's extinction could jeopardize the Rockaways, according to Corrao.

"You would kind of get an ecosystem collapse. They are providing a role in the ecosystem. They are eating invertebrates and small insects, which lead to more environmental benefits," Corrao said.

Corrao also says that people vandalizing nests continues to be a problem. Animals are also praying on the birds.

"They are small and they camouflage — that way a predator is not likely to see them. That's their natural defenses," Corrao said.

The American Bird Conservancy says the birds, though endangered in New York, have found success in the Rockaways since this stretch of beach is less populated in comparison to other New York beaches.

"It must be good if they are going there, and if the disturbance is low, they will stay," said Richard Gibbons, the gulf conservation program manager at American Bird Conservancy.

And preventing disturbances is exactly what the NYC Plover Project is trying to do — keeping an eye from afar on the little birds.

"They are just so adorable as well," Julien said.