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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Snowy Plover -- Charadrius alexandrinus

RANGE: Breeds along the Pacific Coast from southern Washington to Baja California, and locally from southern Oregon, western Nevada, southwestern Montana, central Kansas, and north-central Oklahoma south to southeastern California and north-central Texas; also along the Gulf Coast from Florida west to Texas. Winters on islands and in coastal areas from northern Oregon and the Gulf Coast south to Costa Rica.

STATUS: Locally common; suffering a serious decline in the southern and middle Pacific Coast regions.

HABITAT: Inhabits dry sandy coastal beaches above the wash of the tides, sand spits or bars separating the ocean from coastal wetlands, estuarine margins, alkali flats, dry lake beds, or the shores of salt ponds and alkali lakes. Prefers open habitats; avoids thick vegetation and narrow beaches littered with driftwood or backed by bluffs where it might be trapped by high water.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open nesting habitat, preferably near water.

NEST: Nests singly or sometimes in loose colonies in flat areas devoid of, or sparsely covered with, vegetation or driftwood. Generally nests near water, but occasionally farther away if no formidable barrier is between the nest and water, in a scrape on the ground, usually among small rocks, kelp, or other objects.

FOOD: Forages on wet sand of beaches, at the surf line, or along muddy or alkaline shores of ponds and lakes inland. Food is mostly small crustaceans, marine worms, other minute marine animals, beetles, flies, and other insects.

REFERENCES: Bent 1929, Harrison 1979, Page and Stenzel 1981, Palmer 1967, Tate and Tate 1982, Terres 1980, Wilds in Farrand 1983a.

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