Photo: Greg Lasley/Vireo

Priority Bird

Wilson's Plover

Charadrius wilsonia

Several of our plovers are small birds with single dark neck rings. Wilson's Plover is slightly larger than the others, and has a more southerly distribution, living on beaches along the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Its oversized bill is not only its best field mark, but also a clue to its feeding behavior: some studies have shown that it tends to capture and eat slightly larger creatures than the other plovers on the beach.
Conservation status Uncommon and local, probably has declined in parts of its range.
Family Plovers
Habitat Open beaches, tidal flats, sandy islands. Found only in coastal regions, typically in very open areas such as white sand or shell beaches, estuaries, tidal mudflats. May favor islands, such as offshore barrier beaches, dredge spoil islands.
Several of our plovers are small birds with single dark neck rings. Wilson's Plover is slightly larger than the others, and has a more southerly distribution, living on beaches along the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Its oversized bill is not only its best field mark, but also a clue to its feeding behavior: some studies have shown that it tends to capture and eat slightly larger creatures than the other plovers on the beach.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult female, breeding
  • adult male, breeding
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 4. Buff, blotched with brown and black. Incubation is by both parents, 23-25 days. Male usually incubates at night, female most of the day. Young: Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young feed themselves. Age at first flight roughly 21 days.


Young

Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young feed themselves. Age at first flight roughly 21 days.

Diet

Many crustaceans, also worms, insects. Crustaceans in diet include many crabs, such as fiddler crabs and others, also crayfish, shrimp. Also eats small mollusks, marine worms, many insects and their larvae.


Nesting

Nests as isolated pairs or in loose colonies. In courtship, male goes through ritualized nest-scrape making; male postures near female with wings drooped, tail held low and spread, pattering with feet. Nest site is on dry part of beach, often near piece of driftwood, clump of grass, or other conspicuous object. Nest is simple scrape in sand or shell of beach, usually with sparse lining of pebbles, pieces of shell, grass, debris. Male makes several scrapes, female chooses one.

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

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

Migration

Only a short-distance migrant, with northernmost breeders (and those on parts of Gulf Coast) withdrawing in winter. Rarely wanders north along coast (including from western Mexico into California), and very rarely wanders inland.

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Migration

Only a short-distance migrant, with northernmost breeders (and those on parts of Gulf Coast) withdrawing in winter. Rarely wanders north along coast (including from western Mexico into California), and very rarely wanders inland.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A clear, whistled queet or quit-keet, but usually silent.
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

Wilson's 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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Coastal Stewardship: Gulf

Coastal Stewardship: Gulf

Restoring vital coastal wetlands for colonial and beach-nesting birds

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