Snowy Plover

Charadrius nivosus

  • Version: 2.0 — Published November 18, 2009
  • Gary W. Page, Lynne E. Stenzel, J. S. Warriner, J. C. Warriner, and P. W. Paton

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Snowy Plover in North America.
Juvenile Snowy Plover, Summer Lake, OR, August

The following link is to this contributor's website., Aug 30, 2008; photographer Glenn Bartley

Adult male Snowy Plover, breeding plumage, Sanibel Is, FL, February

Dark (black) fore-crown and eye-stripe indicate male; note thin bill and incomplete breast band typical of this species.; photographer Arthur Morris

Adult female Snowy Plover on nest, Lido Key, FL, April

Note sand beach nest location, shells used to line nest, and large eggs in relation to size of adult -- all typical of the species.  Females tend to have browner fore-crown and eye-stripe than males. ; photographer Arthur Morris

The Snowy Plover is a ground nesting bird found primarily on unvegetated to sparsely vegetated coastal beaches and shores of inland alkaline lakes. An estimated 18,000 Snowy Plovers breed in North America, where U.S. Pacific and Gulf coasts populations are imperiled by degradation of their habitat from development, human recreation and invasive species. The Pacific coast population is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened and the Gulf coast population is state-listed as endangered in Mississippi and threatened in Florida.

Since 1995, study of the Pacific coast population has generated considerable information on reproductive success (Powell and Collier 2000, Colwell et al. 2005), juvenile survival and dispersal (Stenzel et al. 2007, Colwell et al. 2007a, Colwell et al. 2007b), adult survival (Mullin 2006), effectiveness of management techniques (Neuman et al. 2004, Hardy and Colwell 2008), and effect of recreation on behavior and reproduction (Lafferty 2001, Ruhlen et al. 2003). Although Snowy Plovers frequently lose their nests to predators, people, or weather, they relay rapidly and readily (Warriner et al. 1986).

The Snowy Plover employs an unusual facultative polygamous breeding system in many which females in some populations, and less frequently males, desert first broods soon after hatching to renest with new mates (Warriner et al. 1986), sometimes hundreds of kilometers from their first nests (Stenzel. et al. 1994).

Recommended Citation

Page, G. W., L. E. Stenzel, J. S. Warriner, J. C. Warriner, and P. W. Paton (2009). Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.