|Conservation status||Declining in some areas, especially along Gulf Coast and parts of Pacific Coast; considered threatened in parts of range. Human disturbance on beaches often causes failure of nesting attempts.|
|Habitat||Beaches, sandy flats. At all seasons, tends to be found in places where habitat matches pale color of back -- dry sand beaches along coast; salt pans or alkaline flats in interior. Usually in places with very little vegetation, not around marshes. Also sometimes forages on open mudflats.|
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.
3, sometimes 2, rarely 4. Pale buff, dotted with black. Incubation is by both parents, 26-32 days. Male usually incubates at night, female most of day. Young: Downy young leave nest a few hours after hatching, feed themselves, can fly at age of 28-32 days. In some areas, both parents tend young. In other areas, female may depart in less than 6 days, leaving male to raise young; female may then find another mate, and raise another set of young. In these cases, male from first nest may also find a new mate and renest after first young have fledged.
Downy young leave nest a few hours after hatching, feed themselves, can fly at age of 28-32 days. In some areas, both parents tend young. In other areas, female may depart in less than 6 days, leaving male to raise young; female may then find another mate, and raise another set of young. In these cases, male from first nest may also find a new mate and renest after first young have fledged.
Includes crustaceans, insects, marine worms. Along coast, may feed mostly on tiny crustaceans, mollusks, and marine worms, also some insects. At inland sites, diet may be mostly insects, including various flies and beetles.
May nest in loose colonies or as isolated pairs; sometimes nests close to tern colonies. Unlike many shorebirds, male seems to have no aerial display over territory. Nest site is on open bare ground, sometimes close to a grass clump or piece of driftwood. Nest is shallow scrape in ground, lined with bits of shell, grass, pebbles, other debris, sometimes surrounded with similar items.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Download Our Bird Guide App
Most birds nesting inland migrate to coast for winter; many on coast are permanent residents. Generally only a short-distance migrant.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA plaintive chu-we or o-wee-ah.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Snowy 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 Snowy 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.