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Bird Gallery

Piping Plover

Piping Plover
Piping Plover (breeding plumage)

© David McDonald

Charadrius melodus

Family: (Charadriidae) Plovers and Lapwings

Preferred Habitat: Sandy beaches.

Seasonal Occurrence: Common fall through spring.

Profile by Glenn Olsen: Not only do many of us have difficulty identifying plovers, we also find it confusing to pronounce the group name. Is it pronounced PLUH-ver or PLO-ver? Although the jury's still out as far as the pronunciation, identification can be simplified for this group of shorebirds. The Piping Plover is found on our beaches most often from the end of July to early April. Our coastal shoreline, mudflats, and beaches are where an estimated 35% of the Piping Plover population spend the winter. However, a few non-breeding birds may be found during the spring and summer also.

The Piping Plover is a small bird (about 7 inches) with white breast and belly and upper parts the color of dry sand. Its orange legs are the quickest way to distinguish it from the Snowy Plover. Their short, stubby bills are black in late winter but in late summer or early spring most have some noticeable orange in the basal half of the bill with a black tip to the bill. The Piping Plover's "dry sand" color of the back is much lighter than the dark brown (wet sand) back of the Semipalmated Plover and is a key feature to distinguish the two.

The Piping Plover breeds in three major regions, namely, along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Canada, the gravel shores and sandbars of the Great Lakes Region, and the wetlands of the Great Plains of United States and Canada.This species is endangered or threatened in its breeding range and is threatened in Texas where many birds spend the winter.

Piping Plover
Piping Plover (nonbreeding plumage)

© Greg Lavaty