Photo: Mike Baird/Flickr Creative Commons

Priority Bird

Snowy Plover

Charadrius nivosus

An inconspicuous, pale little bird, easily overlooked as it runs around on white sand beaches, or on the salt flats around lakes in the arid west. Where it lives on beaches, its nesting attempts are often disrupted by human visitors who fail to notice that they are keeping the bird away from its nest; as a result, the Snowy Plover populations have declined in many coastal regions. Formerly considered to belong to the same species as the Kentish Plover of the Old World.
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.
Family Plovers
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.
An inconspicuous, pale little bird, easily overlooked as it runs around on white sand beaches, or on the salt flats around lakes in the arid west. Where it lives on beaches, its nesting attempts are often disrupted by human visitors who fail to notice that they are keeping the bird away from its nest; as a result, the Snowy Plover populations have declined in many coastal regions. Formerly considered to belong to the same species as the Kentish Plover of the Old World.
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. 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

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.


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.

Diet

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.


Nesting

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

Migration

Most birds nesting inland migrate to coast for winter; many on coast are permanent residents. Generally only a short-distance migrant.

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Migration

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
Songs and Calls
A plaintive chu-we or o-wee-ah.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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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.

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Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake, with its five globally Important Bird Areas, is drying up. Audubon works with local stakeholders to find sustainable water solutions for birds and all Utahns.

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