September 16 is Plover Appreciation Day, so we decided to share some fun facts about plovers and some photos of plovers on Sauble Beach to celebrate!
Plovers are also known as the Family Charadriidae, and they have thicker necks with shorter bills compared to most sandpipers. Below you can see a Sanderling (sandpiper) on the right and a Semipalmated Plover (plover) on the left to compare!
- Semipalmated Plover
Plovers are found all over the world, and there are 9 species of nesting plovers native to North America!
Although many people think that plovers do not fly because they only see them running along beaches in the summer, plovers are able to fly incredible distances during the migration season. American Golden Plovers have one of the longest migratory journey of any shorebird, breeding in the high Arctic tundra of Canada and Alaska and flying nonstop offshore of eastern North America to South American to overwinter! Our own Piping Plovers are able to make the long trek to Florida each fall to avoid the winter winds in Ontario.
Piping Plover chicks are precocial, which means that they are able to run and forage very soon after they hatch! These independent little birds still depend on their courageous parents to defend them from gulls, crows, and Merlins, along with other predators they may encounter on the beach. Plovers also perform what is called a ‘broken wing display’ to protect their young, in which they pretend to have an injured wing in order to lure would-be predators away from their nests and chicks.
More fun facts about North American Plovers!
– Although it is difficult to see in the field, the Black-bellied Plovers is the only American plover to have a hind toe on its foot.
– Pacific Golden-Plovers cover nearly half of the earth’s circumference with their wintering range that extends from California, to Hawaii, Asia, and northeastern Africa.
– Female Snowy Plovers desert their mates about the time that their chicks hatch and initiates a new breeding attempt each season, often raising two and sometimes three broods a year in places where there is a long breeding season.
– The Wilson’s Plover has a large, thick bill which allows it to catch and eat larger prey items than other plovers on the beach.
– Plovers can swim! Semipalmated Plovers have been seen swimming short distances across small water channels during foraging while on migration. Chicks also swim short distances to follow parents to small islets on shallow lakes.
– The Mountain Plover uses prairie dog towns to provide suitable breeding habitat in areas of longer grasses.
– Killdeer get their name from the shrill, wailing kill-deer call they give so often. Eighteenth-century naturalists also noticed how noisy Killdeer are, giving them names such as the Chattering Plover and the Noisy Plover.
Facts retrieved from Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds
Hopefully you’re becoming an even more enthusiastic Plover Lover, because while we appreciate these shorebirds, we must also recognize that they need our help! Piping Plovers are not the only plovers that are classified as species at risk. So today, let’s celebrate and learn more about these amazing birds so that we can begin to help them by sharing space and giving our support to those working to protect them!