copyright: J. del Hoyo
The Semipalmated Plover is a small plover with a short bill and yellow-orange legs. It has brown upperparts with white below and a single, dark breast band. The breast band, sides of head, and forecrown are black in breeding adults, and brown in non-breeding adults and juveniles. Semipalmated Plovers walk or run with their heads up, pausing to look for prey. They commonly 'foot-stir," holding one foot forward and vibrating the substrate to cause invertebrates to move and be detected. They typically run if disturbed, but they are also fast, powerful fliers. Semipalmated Plovers roost and fly in flocks, but forage singly. They are territorial around nesting and feeding areas.
During migration and in winter, Semipalmated Plovers inhabit coastal mudflats and exposed sandy beaches. They also migrate through the interior in small numbers, spending time on lakeshores, alkaline ponds, and shores of sloughs and flooded fields. They breed throughout the North American Arctic and subarctic, often on gravel bars along rivers and ponds. They tend to avoid marsh vegetation.
The semipalmated plover breeds from Alaska to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. It winters along the coasts from California and the Carolinas south. In Suriname numerous migrant from the North, sometimes thousands.
On the coast, the plovers' diet consists of marine worms, crustaceans, and small mollusks. On breeding grounds and during migration inland, Semipalmated Plovers eat mostly insects. Moves by stop-run-stop, or stop-run-peck, scanning and capturing prey at stops. Captures prey by single peck or series of pecks. Worms and clams sometimes shaken vigorously in shallow water near capture site to remove mud.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 4,900,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 150,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
The male Semipalmated Plover arrives on the breeding grounds before the female and establishes a nesting territory. He performs a 'butterfly flight' during courtship. The male constructs a scrape nest in sand or gravel and lines it with material found near the nest. The female usually lays four eggs, and male and female spend nearly equal time incubating. Chicks can walk and feed themselves within hours of hatching, but are brooded for several days. Both sexes tend the young, but females may leave approximately 15 days after hatching. Semipalmated Plovers have one brood per season. back to top
Migratory. Winters on coasts of South and North America and all larger islands in the general zone. Many birds remain in winter quarters during breeding season. Migrates mainly along coast, but also across interior Canada; breeding birds of Central arctic migrate North via interior USA, but South along coast. Species probably crosses part of West Atlantic in autumn, but follows Atlantic coast in spring when 70% of population visits Delaware Bay to feed on eggs laid by horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus). Departs from breeding grounds in Canada from early July; adults leave before juveniles; arrives in South America September to early November. Spring return starts March, reaching South of breeding range in late May, and North in early June. Many adults follow same migration route every year, at roughly same dates.