Mountain Plover – Profile | Facts | Habitat | Diet | Traits | Range

Mountain Plover

The mountain plover, scientific name Charadrius montanus is a medium-sized ground bird within the plover family (Charadriidae).

It is misnamed because it lives on level land. Unlike most plovers, it’s often not discovered close to our bodies of water and even on moist soil; it prefers dry habitat with quick grass (often on account of grazing) and naked ground.

Mountain Plover profile

The understated, elegant sandy plumage of the Mountain Plover blends completely with its pale shortgrass and desert environment—when alarmed, this bird usually merely sits down and disappears.

Nesting on high, dry plains of western North America, this species is a companion of basic prairie wildlife like bison, pronghorn, and prairie dogs.

Sadly, intensive conversion of prairies to agriculture and different makes use of has hit this species exhausting, with more than 80% of the inhabitants gone within the final half-century.


Mountain plovers are one among solely 12 grassland birds endemic to the western Great Plains.

They nest throughout the western Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states, from the Canadian border to northern Mexico, and winter in California, southern Arizona, Texas, and Mexico.

Mountain plovers solely nest in areas with sparse vegetation or naked ground, reminiscent of prairie dog cities. Loss of those areas due to crop planting or the removing of prairie dogs is the largest risk to the mountain plover’s inhabitants.

Poorly named, this pallid plover is a bird of flat open plains, not mountains. Of all of our “shorebirds,” that is the one most disconnected from the shore, usually residing miles from water within the dry nation of the west.

The short-grass prairie the place it as soon as thrived has been largely transformed to farmland, however, the Mountain Plover has discovered new habitat in grassland overgrazed by cattle.

Mountain Plover Distribution

It breeds within the high plains of North America from excessive southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan to northern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle, in addition to a remote site within the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

About 85 p.c of the inhabitant’s winters within the San Joaquin and Imperial Valleys in California.

Its winter range additionally extends alongside the U.S.-Mexican border, more extensively on the Mexican aspect.

The mountain plover wants about 70 acres of territory for breeding and about 25 acres for survival in non-breeding instances.

Around late July, mountain plovers depart their breeding range for an interval of post-breeding wandering across the southern Great Plains.

Little is thought about their actions right now, though they’re frequently seen around Walsh, Colorado, and on sod farms in central New Mexico.

By early November, most transfer southward and westward to their wintering grounds. Spring migration is outwardly direct and continuous.


A small shorebird with a brief, straight bill and a round head; elegantly proportioned with long legs and long wings.

Mountain Plover Description

The phrase plover got here from a Latin phrase pluvia which suggests “rain”. In Medieval England, some migratory birds grew to become often called plovers as a result of they returned to their breeding grounds every spring with rain.

In 1832 American naturalist John Kirk Townsend noticed a species of the unknown bird close to the Rocky Mountains and assumed that everyone these birds stay in mountains.

The plover comes back every spring to its breeding grounds, and so the incorrect name mountain plover was given to the species. The mountain plover is eight to 9.5 inches (20 to 24 cm) long and weighs about 3.7 ounces (105 grams).

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Its wingspread is 17.5 to 19.5 inches (44.5 to 49.5 cm). The mountain plover’s call consists of a low, variable whistle.

Both sexes are of identical size. I look it’s typical of Charadrius plovers, besides that not like most, it has no band throughout the breast.

The upperparts are sandy brown and the underparts and face are whitish.

There are black feathers on the forecrown and a black stripe from every eye to the bill (the stripe is brown and could also be vague in winter); in any other case, the plumage is obvious.

The mountain plover is way quieter than its relative the killdeer. Its calls are variable, usually low-pitched trilled or gurgling whistles.

In courtship, it makes a sound very similar to a far-off cow mooing.


Semi-arid plains, grasslands, plateaus. Favors areas of very quick grass, even naked soil. Typically removed from the water.

Nests largely in the short-grass prairie, together with overgrazed pasture and really arid plains.

In some areas, nests primarily on the somewhat barren open ground present in massive prairie-dog cities. Winter habitats embody desert flats, plowed fields.


Mountain Plovers are tan above with a heat fawn-brown on the nape. They have blackish tails, a black bill, and pale legs.

Breeding adults have black forecrown and lores (between eyes and bill).

Juveniles are much like nonbreeding adults however darker above, with a scaly look on the upperparts created by pale feather edges.


Mostly bugs. Diet is just not well-known; however within the dry upland habitats the place this plover lives, it most likely feeds virtually fully on bugs, together with grasshoppers, beetles, flies, and crickets.

Feeding Behavior

Typically they run a couple of steps after which pause, then run once more, pecking on the ground at any time when they spot one thing edible.

Mountain Plover Eggs

3, typically 2, not often 1-4. Olive-buff with many black marks. Incubation is by one or each sex, 28-31 days.

On very popular days, adults will stand over eggs, shading them from intense solar.

Young: Downy younger depart nest quickly after hatching; are tended by one or each parent, however, feed themselves.

Adults shade younger on scorching days, and family could search out any obtainable shade at mid-day. Young can fly effectively at about 33-34 days.


Downy younger depart nest quickly after hatching; are tended by one or each parent, however, feed themselves.

Adults shade younger on scorching days, and family could search out any obtainable shade at mid-day. Young can fly effectively at about 33-34 days.


Mountain plovers nest on the naked ground in early spring (April in northern Colorado). The breeding territory should have a naked round with quick, sparse vegetation.

Plovers often choose a breeding range that they share with bison and black-tailed prairie dogs. These animals are grazers that hold vegetation quickly.

Plovers wish to nest amongst prairie dog colonies as a result of the foraging and burrowing that these animals do expose even more naked soil which creates a really perfect habitat for plover nest sites.

It is believed that plovers wish to nest on naked soil as a result of the mix into the land hiding them from birds that will prey on them and the quick vegetation permits them to simply detect predators on the ground.

It can also be believed it’s simpler for them to identify bugs to eat.

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Mountain Plover Breeding

Their breeding season extends over the summer months and ends a while around late July or early August. During mating, the male will set territory and carry out shows to draw a feminine.

Females lay a number of clutches of eggs with three eggs to a clutch; the eggs are off-white with blackish spots.

Egg size decreases because the breeding season goes on due to the high energy price on the females.

It has been discovered that eggs laid throughout a time of drought are usually bigger offering the incubating chick more nourishment and so a higher likelihood of survival.

Mountain plovers carry out uniparental incubation by each sex. Females depart their first clutch to be incubated and tended to by the male after which lay a second clutch, which she tends to herself.

This kind of incubation fits the mountain plover effectively and permits for a higher yield of chicks in comparison with comparable species of birds through which each male and female have a tendency to a single clutch collectively.

Females can mate with a number of males and have a number of males tended nests in a single breeding season.

This would end in higher reproductive success for the feminine however there’s a high energy price on the feminine laying so many eggs and so it’s more frequent for a feminine to put solely two clutches.

If the eggs survive varied risks, particularly such predators as coyotes, snakes, and swift foxes, they hatch in 28 to 31 days, and the hatchlings depart the nest within a couple of hours.

In the next two or three days, the family often strikes one to 2 kilometers from the nest site to a very good feeding space, usually close to a water tank for livestock.


The inhabitants have been estimated at between 5,000 and 10,000 adult birds, though these numbers have just lately been revised to the range of 11,000 to 14,000, with a total inhabitants estimate of about 15,000 to 20,000.


Most apparently migrate southwest from breeding grounds; some go straight south to Texas, northern Mexico. Very not often strays to the eastern United States, largely in fall and winter.

Mountain Plover Facts

Mountain Plover pairs often make 2 simultaneous nests. The feminine lays half her eggs in every nest, after which the feminine incubates one whereas the male incubates the opposite.

American naturalist John Kirk Townsend was the first to convey Mountain Plovers to the discovery of science, in 1834, when he discovered one alongside the Sweetwater River of Wyoming.

His colleague John James Audubon gave the bird its first name, the Rocky Mountain Plover, despite the fact that the species is a bird not of mountains however of prairie.

Farmers and hunters typically seek advice from the Mountain Plover because the “prairie ghost,” on account of its capability to (seemingly) vanish into skinny air—actually, the bird often simply faces away from an observer and sits down, its upperparts indistinguishable from the pale tan color of the grassland around it.

The oldest recorded Mountain Plover was at the least 10 years old when it was resighted in Montana within the wild and recognized by its band.

Where to search out Mountain Plover

The first factor to do when in search of a Mountain Plover is to hold alongside or borrow a recognizing scope. These small shorebirds stay in wide-open areas and might look very very similar to a clump of sod.

In summer, search for them on preserved patches of shortgrass prairie such because the Pawnee National Grasslands, Colorado. They usually are interested in prairie dog cities.

In winter, search for them on plowed, newly planted, or fallow agricultural fields, in addition to rangeland with quick grass. eBird data also can assist discover locations for patient searches.


Has disappeared from a lot of former breeding range as former short-grass prairie is transformed to farmland.

In some areas, the decline could also be linked to say no in prairie dogs (whose colonies previously furnished good nesting habitat).

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