These Native Species Of Pennsylvania Are Facing Extinction

In part 1 of this series, we went over endangered species in Pennsylvania, such as the Black Tern, Black-Crowned Night-Heron, and the Northern Flying Squirrel, based on a report by The Pennsylvania State Game Commission (PGC). This time we dig even deeper into the world of endangered species of Pennsylvania.

Data provided by the PGC.

Piping Plover

Status | Endangered

The piping plover is scientifically known as the Charadrius melodus. According to the PGC, in Pennsylvania, the piping plover is severely rare and highly endangered across its North American breeding locations. The geography creates three different breeding populations, each federally listed and protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. In Pennsylvania in 2017, for the first time since the 1950s, piping plovers became managed as part of the federally endangered Great Lakes population, which accounts for the smallest and most at risk. The piping plover is a highest-priority Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan.

Location | Great Lakes (Lake Erie)

This bird species nests only in the Great Lakes region. The population over the decades has been dwindling. The breeding habitat for piping plovers in Pennsylvania is along the shoreline of Lake Erie at Presque Isle State is the only one. A critical habited as designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although during its migration, you can find it along shorelines and large bodies of water such as Lake Erie and the Susquehanna, or even the Delaware river.


Its appearance is sand-colored, a shorebird just slightly larger than a sparrow. You can distinguish between the killdeer, a cousin of the piping plover, by its shorter stature, orange legs, single breast band, and orange bill. During the breeding season, the bill has a black tip. Although in fall, it is hard to tell migratory piping plovers apart from the kildeer because their beak bills turn black, and their breast and headbands molt to a grey and white feathers color scheme. Although, the orange legs remain the same.


Like other plovers, the piping plover feeds along the shoreline in a series of short stops and starts as it pecks for aquatic insects and worms. Additionally, piping plovers are known for their subtle two-note “peep-lo” call and typically heard before seen by this well-camouflaged shorebird.

Northern Goshawk

Status | Endangered (Nesting Sites)

The northern goshawk is endangered and protected under the Game and Wildlife Code. Northern Goshawks are protected nationally under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. NatureServe designates northern goshawk as critically endangered and at risk in surrounding states with enough data to evaluate their population. They used to nest in West Virginia and Maryland, but now Pennsylvania is as far south as they nest due to changing climate. This species used to have a stable population in PA, roughly 150-200 territories, though, since the 1980s, only two remain today.

Location | Northern Pennsylvania (Nesting)

According to the Pennsylvania Biological Survey, goshawks are in remote, higher-elevation forests across northern Pennsylvania and mountainous areas southward, primarily in mature mixed and conifer forests with an open understory.


The northern goshawk is a large, sexually dimorphic accipiter of the forest. Females are larger in size than males. It has the typical shape of a raptor, albeit with short round wings and a long tail. The northern goshawk is the largest and bulkiest accipiter, a genus of birds in Pennsylvania. Adults appear slate grey above, finely alternating lines of gray and white below, and have white eyebrows. The young ones are brown with blotches on their back and brown mixed with other hues underneath with streaks running down their back.


From a nest site, the northern goshawk will loudly cackle kye, kye, kye, according to Sibley 2003. An opportunistic bird of prey that prefers feeding on medium-sized mammals and other birds with the occasional reptile and insect. Squirrels, lagomorphs, large passerines, woodpeckers, corvids, and other similar-sized birds make up its diet, according to Squires et al. 2020. These raptors primarily ambush hunt, waiting for the perfect moment when their prey approaches, then attacking in a burst of speed.

Long Eared Owl

Status | Threatened

The long-eared owl is threatened and protected under the Game and Wildlife Code. The State Wildlife Action Plan refers to this species as a High-Level Concern. As with any migratory bird, the federal act 1918 protects them.

Location | Appalachian Mountains

While globally, the species has distribution all around the world, such as forest habitats of Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as North America. Its southern range limit is Pennsylvania but can be seen in the southern-Appalachian Mountains while migrating.


The long-eared owl is a medium-sized owl roughly 15 inches long, with narrow ear tufts, bright yellow-orange iris color, and the disc around its face framed in black. While in terms of appearance, it looks similar to the great horned owl, this long-eared owl is about one-fifth of its size, with ear tufts that point up, not out, and in terms of its size, a longer tail, with no white patch on its throat. While you cannot tell males and females apart by plumage, meaning their feathers, the females are larger by a slight margin compared to males.


The long-eared owl is shy, quiet, and secretive, preferring the lone wilderness, and living in a very stealthy manner. Due to its behavior, it is perplexing to understand population trends, as they are difficult to spot. These owls will perch next to the tree trunks and stay still to avoid becoming discovered, allowing them to hunt down unsuspecting prey. While this species is stealthy, they are still birds and make bird calls. Male long-eared owl mating call is a deeply produced “hoo” or “whoop.” The Female call is a more nasally “peh-ev.” or a higher toned “veeeees” almost like a toy trumpet. Males fly with an irregular zigzag pattern around the nest.