Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Black-bellied Plover

Pluvialis squatarola

This stocky plover breeds in high Arctic zones around the world, and winters on the coasts of six continents. Some can be seen along our beaches throughout the year (including non-breeding immatures through the summer). Although the Black-bellied Plover is quite plain in its non-breeding plumage, it adds much to the character of our shorelines with its haunting whistles, heard by day or night.
Conservation status Population trends would be difficult to detect. No evidence of widespread change in numbers.
Family Plovers
Habitat Mudflats, open marshes, beaches; in summer, tundra. For nesting favors drier tundra, often more barren ridges above lowland lakes and rivers. Sometimes in lower wet tundra near coast. In winter mostly on open sand beaches, tidal flats. During migration will often stop in short-grass prairie or plowed fields.
This stocky plover breeds in high Arctic zones around the world, and winters on the coasts of six continents. Some can be seen along our beaches throughout the year (including non-breeding immatures through the summer). Although the Black-bellied Plover is quite plain in its non-breeding plumage, it adds much to the character of our shorelines with its haunting whistles, heard by day or night.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • juvenile
  • adult, nonbreeding (worn plumage)
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, molting to breeding plumage
Feeding Behavior

Typically they run a few steps and then pause, then run again, pecking at the ground whenever they spot something edible. Sometimes probes for hidden prey.


Eggs

4, sometimes 3. Buff to gray-green, with darker blotches. Incubation is by both parents, 26-27 days. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching, find all their own food. Both parents tend young at first, then female leaves before young are 2 weeks old. If predator threatens, adults may lure it away by putting on broken-wing act. Adults also mob predatory birds that come near nest area. Young are able to fly at 35-45 days; adult male may leave before young fledge.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching, find all their own food. Both parents tend young at first, then female leaves before young are 2 weeks old. If predator threatens, adults may lure it away by putting on broken-wing act. Adults also mob predatory birds that come near nest area. Young are able to fly at 35-45 days; adult male may leave before young fledge.

Diet

Insects, mollusks, crustaceans, marine worms. Diet on northern tundra is mostly insects, also some mollusks, and small amount of plant material. In coastal situations (where it spends most of year), eats many polychaete worms, also mollusks, crustaceans, some insects.


Nesting

Male displays on territory by flying with slow, deep wingbeats, giving clear whistled notes. Female may be attracted by this display. In courtship, male lands near female, runs stiffly toward her with head low. Nest site is on dry ground, often somewhat raised on ridge or hummock, with good visibility. Nest is a shallow scrape, lined with pebbles and bits of plant material; male begins scrape, female adds lining.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Most migrate along coast or over sea, but numbers stop over regularly at some inland sites. Winter range remarkably extensive, from New England and southwestern Canada to southern South America, Africa, Australia. Females may tend to winter farther south than males. Most immatures apparently do not go to breeding grounds in summer; may remain through season on more southerly coasts.

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Migration

Most migrate along coast or over sea, but numbers stop over regularly at some inland sites. Winter range remarkably extensive, from New England and southwestern Canada to southern South America, Africa, Australia. Females may tend to winter farther south than males. Most immatures apparently do not go to breeding grounds in summer; may remain through season on more southerly coasts.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A clear whistled pee-a-wee.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Plovers Sandpiper-like Birds

Black-bellied Plover

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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