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
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.
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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.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Wilson's 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 Wilson's 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.

Coastal Stewardship: Gulf

Coastal Stewardship: Gulf

Restoring vital coastal wetlands for colonial and beach-nesting birds

Read more

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