Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo

Semipalmated Plover

Charadrius semipalmatus

The most common of the small plovers on migration through most areas. On its breeding grounds in the north, it avoids the tundra habitat chosen by most shorebirds, nesting instead on gravel bars along rivers or ponds. In such surroundings, its seemingly bold pattern actually helps to make the plover inconspicuous, by breaking up its outline against the varied background. The name "semipalmated" refers to partial webbing between the bird's toes.
Conservation status Seriously depleted by unrestricted shooting in late 19th century, but has recovered well, currently widespread and common.
Family Plovers
Habitat Shores, tideflats. Favors very open habitats on migration, including broad mudflats, sandy beaches, lake shores, pools in salt marsh; sometimes in flooded fields or even plowed fields with other shorebirds. Tends to avoid flats overgrown with too much marsh vegetation. Breeds in the north, mostly on open flats of sand or gravel near water.
The most common of the small plovers on migration through most areas. On its breeding grounds in the north, it avoids the tundra habitat chosen by most shorebirds, nesting instead on gravel bars along rivers or ponds. In such surroundings, its seemingly bold pattern actually helps to make the plover inconspicuous, by breaking up its outline against the varied background. The name "semipalmated" refers to partial webbing between the bird's toes.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • juvenile
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • juvenile
  • adult female, breeding
  • juvenile
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult female, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Typically they run a few steps and then pause, then run again, pecking at the ground whenever they spot something edible. Will sometimes hold one foot forward and shuffle it rapidly over the surface of sand or mud, as if to startle small creatures into moving.


Eggs

4, rarely 3. Olive-buff to olive-brown, blotched with black and brown. Incubation is by both sexes, 23-25 days. Young: Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Age at first flight about 23-31 days.


Young

Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Age at first flight about 23-31 days.

Diet

Insects, crustaceans, worms. Diet varies with season and location. In breeding season and during migration inland, may feed mostly on insects, including flies and their larvae, also earthworms. On coast, eats many marine worms, crustaceans, small mollusks.


Nesting

In breeding season, male displays over territory by flying in wide circles with slow, exaggerated wingbeats, calling repeatedly. On ground, male may display by crouching with tail spread, wings open, and feathers fluffed up, while he gives calls with an excited sound. Nest site is on ground, amid sparse plant growth or on bare open gravel or sand, sometimes placed close to large rock or other landmark. Nest is shallow scrape in ground, sometimes lined with small leaves, other debris.

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

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

Migration

Migrates mostly late in spring and early in fall, with peak southbound flights in August. Has a very extensive winter range, along coasts from United States to southern South America.

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Migration

Migrates mostly late in spring and early in fall, with peak southbound flights in August. Has a very extensive winter range, along coasts from United States to southern South America.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A plaintive 2-note whistle, tu-wee. Also a soft, rather musical rattle.
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

Semipalmated 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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