Priority Bird
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.

Feeding Behavior

Typically they run a few steps and then pause, then run again, pecking at the ground whenever they spot something edible.


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.


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


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.


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

Download Our Bird Guide App


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

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

Learn more

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.