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Snowy Plover Charadrius alexandrinus


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Snowy Plover, breeding
credit: Bogbumper/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Charadriidae, Plovers view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE In summer, has pale sandy brown upperparts and white underparts. Note black patches at front of sandy crown, behind eye and on the side of breast. Legs and bill are black. In winter, resembles adult female. ADULT FEMALE In summer is similar to male, but black elements of plumage are a paler dark brown. In winter, plumage shows even less contrast. JUVENILE Resembles winter female.

Dimensions Length: 5-7" (13-18 cm)

Endangered Status The Western Snowy Plover, a subspecies of the Snowy Plover, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as threatened in California, Oregon, and Washington, within 50 miles of the Pacific Ocean. This shorebird nests in coastal sand dunes, and it is speculated that recreational use of these habitats has contributed to the reduction of these plovers. Steps are being taken to reduce the impact of humans on the plovers. These include educating the public and warning them not to approach the off-limits nesting areas, providing access ways to beaches that detour the plover colonies, and restricting vehicle access on beaches during the nesting season.

Habitat Scarce and threatened species, favoring wide-open sandy habitats or mudflats. Occurs year-round on a few coastal beaches but more widespread in winter. Human disturbance badly affects breeding success and seldom thrives unless nests are protected.

Observation Tips Heat haze and harsh sunlight make it hard to spot, so easiest to see on dull days.

Range Rocky Mountains, Texas, California, Northwest, Florida, Southeast, Southwest, Plains

Voice Utters a soft bruip call.

Discussion Dumpy little plover that looks mostly very pale. Typically feeds near water's edge, running at speed then pausing momentarily to pick invertebrates from surface of sand. Sexes are separable.