Semipalmated Plover

Charadrius semipalmatus

  • Version: 2.0 — Published September 9, 2014
  • Erica Nol and Michele S. Blanken

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Semipalmated Plover in North and Central America.

Distribution of the Semipalmated Plover in North and Central America and the western Caribbean. This species also winters in South America and the eastern Caribbean.

Adult Semipalmated Plover, breeding plumage .

Breeding males with bright head markings, and strong black breast band. Forecrown, loral stripe and at least part of ear coverts black in male, with bill dark-tipped orange, and legs dull to bright orange. The following is a link to this contributor's website: Glenn Bartley.

A small, common shorebird similar in appearance to its Eurasian counterpart, the Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), the Semipalmated Plover generally nests in open sites near sub-arctic lakes, marshes, and rivers and inland on dry, gravel or sparsely vegetated sites. A few populations are found south of the sub-Arctic in north temperate regions. This species is socially and most often genetically monogamous, and both sexes actively care for eggs and their precocial chicks. A medium- to long-distance migrant, it winters mainly in marine habitats, rarely inland.

Recent data suggest this plover has a stable population (Andres et al. 2012), unlike many other declining species of shorebird, perhaps owing to its versatility in food and habitat choice, and its widespread coastal winter distribution.

The open habitat and relatively tame nature and ease of capture of this species make it ideal for study on its breeding grounds. From Churchill, Manitoba, detailed long-term information is available on its breeding phenology, behavior, and population structure (Nol et al. 1997, Sullivan Blanken and Nol 1998, Flynn et al. 1999). Some comparative data are also available from a disjunct population of plovers nesting on the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia (Coues 1874a), and on Akimiski (Nguyen 2005) and Southampton islands, Nunavut (Smith et al. 2007, 2010).

Because this species usually occurs in smaller and more dispersed flocks than other shorebirds do, it has rarely been the focus of migration studies. But several studies have now been conducted on its non-breeding range so information on this important period of its life cycle is now available. Migratory connectivity has also been established -- birds from particular breeding grounds tend to be found in the same wintering areas, year after year.

Recommended Citation

Nol, E. and M. S. Blanken (2014). Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.