Photo: Bob Steele/Vireo

Mountain Plover

Charadrius montanus

Poorly named, this pallid plover is a bird of flat open plains, not mountains. Of all of our "shorebirds," this is the one most disconnected from the shore, generally living miles from water in the dry country of the west. The short-grass prairie where it once thrived has been largely converted to farmland, but the Mountain Plover has found new habitat in grassland overgrazed by cattle.
Conservation status Has disappeared from much of former breeding range as former short-grass prairie is converted to farmland. In some areas, decline may be linked to decline in prairie-dogs (whose colonies formerly furnished good nesting habitat).
Family Plovers
Habitat Semi-arid plains, grasslands, plateaus. Favors areas of very short grass, even bare soil. Typically far from water. Nests mostly in short-grass prairie, including overgrazed pasture and very arid plains. In some areas, nests mainly on the rather barren open ground found in large prairie-dog towns. Winter habitats include desert flats, plowed fields.
Poorly named, this pallid plover is a bird of flat open plains, not mountains. Of all of our "shorebirds," this is the one most disconnected from the shore, generally living miles from water in the dry country of the west. The short-grass prairie where it once thrived has been largely converted to farmland, but the Mountain Plover has found new habitat in grassland overgrazed by cattle.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • juvenile
  • flock
Feeding Behavior

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


Eggs

3, sometimes 2, rarely 1-4. Olive-buff with many black marks. Incubation is by one or both sexes, 28-31 days. On very hot days, adult will stand over eggs, shading them from intense sun. Young: Downy young leave nest soon after hatching; are tended by one or both parents, but feed themselves. Adults shade young on hot days, and family may seek out any available shade at mid-day. Young can fly well at about 33-34 days.


Young

Downy young leave nest soon after hatching; are tended by one or both parents, but feed themselves. Adults shade young on hot days, and family may seek out any available shade at mid-day. Young can fly well at about 33-34 days.

Diet

Mostly insects. Diet is not well known; but in the dry upland habitats where this plover lives, it probably feeds almost entirely on insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, flies, and crickets.


Nesting

In breeding season, male may display by flying high over territory with exaggerated slow wingbeats, calling. Female may lay one clutch of eggs and leave male to care for eggs and young, then lay another clutch and incubate it herself. Nest site is on flat open ground (flat sites chosen even in hilly country). On featureless plain, nest is often placed close to some conspicuous object, such as a pile of cow manure. Nest is shallow scrape in soil. Nest lining (including pebbles, grass, rootlets, chips of cow manure) added mostly during incubation. Several nest scrapes are made, only one is used.

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

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

Migration

Most apparently migrate southwest from breeding grounds; some go straight south to Texas, northern Mexico. Very rarely strays to eastern United States, mostly in fall and winter.

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Migration

Most apparently migrate southwest from breeding grounds; some go straight south to Texas, northern Mexico. Very rarely strays to eastern United States, mostly in fall and winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A harsh single note, krrrp.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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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

Mountain 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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