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
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.

Download Our Bird Guide App

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.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Mountain Plover

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Mountain Plover

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

Explore Similar Birds