Wilson's Plover

Charadrius wilsonia

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 2000
  • Carol A. Corbat and Peter W. Bergstrom

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Figure 1. Distribution of Wilson's Plover in North and Central America and western Caribbean.
Adult male Wilson's Plover, breeding plumage

Note black forehead and breast band.; photographer Kevin T. Karlson

Juvenile Wilson's Plover, Florida, late July

Juvenile with fiddler crab, typical prey for this species. Florida, late July.  Note pale fringes to back plumage, typical of juveniles of this species. ; photographer Arthur Morris

Wilson's Plover is a medium-sized plover associated strictly with coastal areas. It has a single breast-band and can be distinguished easily from other similar plovers by its heavy black bill and larger size. The species is named for Alexander Wilson, who collected the type specimen in May 1813 at Cape May, NJ, where this species is (and was) only a rare visitor.

Wilson's Plovers nest on sparsely vegetated saline areas, including beaches above high tide, dune areas, and edges of lagoons. They are territorial during the nesting season but engage in group defense of their nesting areas. During the nonbreeding season, individuals congregate in groups of up to 30 or more, sometimes with other species of small plovers, for roosting and foraging. Wilson's Plovers feed primarily on crustaceans, particularly fiddler crabs (Uca spp.).

Studies from Texas and Georgia (Bergstrom Bergstrom 1981, Bergstrom 1982, Bergstrom 1986, Bergstrom 1988a, Bergstrom 1988b, Bergstrom 1989, Corbat 1990) provide important information on breeding biology. Studies of feeding, activity budget, and habitat use have been conducted in Venezuela (Morrier and McNeil 1991, Thibault and McNeil Thibault and McNeil 1994, Thibault and McNeil 1995). Otherwise, little is known about most aspects of the life history of this species, and further study in all areas is warranted.

Loss of beach habitat and disturbances to nesting areas are the primary threats to the species.

Recommended Citation

Corbat, C. A. and P. W. Bergstrom. 2000. Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.