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Wilson's Plover Charadrius wilsonia

  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Charadriidae
  • Polytypic: 4 subspecies
  • Authors needed...

More of a prey specialist than most shorebirds, the stocky Wilson’s Plover (19 cm length) is a coastal species feeding preferentially on fiddler crabs (Uca spp.) that occur at the margins of mud flats and the upper limits of beaches. In these same habitats, the plover usually nests just above the reach of the highest tides among salt tolerant plants such as glasswort (Salicornia). Its former name, Thick-billed Plover, alludes to the anatomical character that allows it to catch and manipulate hard-bodied crustacean prey. Other animals taken include mollusks, insects such as sand flies and dragonflies, worms, and shrimp. Among similar species with which it may occur, Wilson’s Plover is slightly smaller than a Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus); slightly larger and more elongate than Semipalmated and Piping plovers (C. semipalmatus, C. melodus), and much larger and with a thicker bill and broader breast band than Collared Plover (Charadrius collaris). Aside from size and bill shape, adults may be distinguished by their single, broad breast band; the male’s is black; the female’s is paler brown. In the United States, northeastern breeders nest on the east coast north to New Jersey. They occur southward along the Florida coast, then west- and southward along the Gulf Coast to Mexico. The northwestern-most populations nest along the Gulf of California. They are widespread in the Caribbean, and nest at least as far south as northeastern Brazil. Northern birds are migratory.

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© Paul Marvin

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: