Snowy plover

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Snowy plover
Snowy Plover srgb.jpg
Snowy plover near Cayucos, California
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Charadriidae
Genus: Charadrius
C. nivosus
Binomial name
Charadrius nivosus
Cassin, 1858

The snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) is a small wader in the plover bird family. It breeds in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, the southern and western United States and the Caribbean. Long considered to be a subspecies of the Kentish plover, it is now known to be a distinct species.

General Information[edit]

The Snowy Plover is small pale bird that runs along white beaches or on the beds of salt lakes. The Snowy Plover is a species that has been impacted by humans because beaches are a popular vacation spot, which results in the disturbance to their natural habitat and the Plover's nesting attempts. When it comes to migration[2] Snowy Plovers tend to migrate to the coast during winter time. When they move inland they do not travel very far in order to stay in the correct climate and they are able to easily move back to the coast. Most Plovers stay on the coast during all seasons to permanently make their home where there is an abundance of food. A typical Snowy Plover consumes many different small crustaceans that wash up on the sandy beach, they also target marine worms and insects. While the Snowy Plover is inland, they look to consume mainly insects which include flies and beetles. The Snowy Plover has an acute sense of sight and they are intelligent, whenever they see something that could be edible they pick it up and move the creature across the sand in order to startle the creature into moving which assures the Snowy Plover that what they caught is edible.


Genetic research published in 2009 strongly suggested that the snowy plover is a separate species from the Kentish plover,[3] and by July, 2011, the International Ornithological Congress (IOC), and the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) North American committee have recognized them as separate species. Other taxonomic committees are reviewing the relationship.

Physically, snowy plovers are shorter-legged, paler and greyer above than its Old World sister species, and breeding males lack a rufous cap. The eye mask is also poorly developed or absent.


Three eggs in a nest on a beach in California, USA

The snowy plover breeds on sandy coasts and brackish inland lakes, and is uncommon on fresh water. It nests in a ground scrape and lays three to five eggs.[4]

Snowy Plover
Snowy Plover at Point Reyes National Seashore, California.

The breeding birds in warmer countries are largely sedentary, but northern and inland populations are migratory, wintering south to the tropics. Food is insects and other invertebrates, which are obtained by a run-and-pause technique, rather than the steady probing of some other wader groups.

The snowy plover breeds from Texas and Oklahoma west to California and up the coastline to Oregon and Washington, with the coastal form's primary breeding concentration in central and southern California.[5] On March 5, 1993 the western snowy plover was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. As of June 19, 2012, the habitat along the California, Oregon, and Washington Coasts have been listed as critical.[6]

In many parts of the world, it has become difficult for this species to breed on beaches because of disturbance from the activities of humans or their animals. The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) is currently endeavoring to rehabilitate snowy plover populations by protecting beaches along the central California coastline that runs along part of the university campus.[7] UCSB has had some success in encouraging reproduction; the university also often trains students and other volunteers to watch over protected beaches during the daytime to ensure no one disturbs nesting grounds. But even with the conservation efforts their population is slowly dwindling, it's estimated that only about 2,500 western snowy plovers breed along the Pacific Coast.[8]

The beaches lining Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California are also home to several protected areas where breeding has been successful in recent years. Access to these beaches is limited to certain times of the year, and very specific areas are open to keep the bird protected. Most of these beaches are only open to military personnel and their families.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Charadrius nivosus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2015.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. ^ "Snowy Plover". Audubon. 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2020-03-30.
  3. ^ Küpper, Clemens; Augustin, Jakob; Kosztolányi, András; Burke, Terry; Figuerola, Jordy; Székely, Tamás (2009). "Kentish versus Snowy Plover: phenotypic and genetic analyses of Charadrius alexandrinus reveal divergence of Eurasian and American subspecies". The Auk. The American Ornithologists’ Union. 126 (4): 839–852. doi:10.1525/auk.2009.08174.
  4. ^ Sahagun, Louis (May 9, 2017). "Rare birds find Southern California beach housing". LA Times. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  5. ^ "Recovery Plan for the Pacific Coast Population of the Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus)" (PDF). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  6. ^ "Western Snowy Plover Species Profile". U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  7. ^ "2003 UCSB Press Release on snowy plovers". World Heritage. Retrieved 21 May 2007.
  8. ^ "Western Snowy Plover". Monterey Bay Aquarium. Retrieved March 6, 2020.


External links[edit]