Bird Database

Semipalmated Plover

(Charadrius semipalmatus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Climate change, Human disturbance

Conservation Actions

Protect coastal habitats, Minimize disturbanceto shorebrids

Semipalmated Plover

(Charadrius semipalmatus)

The Semipalmated Plover is one of the most abundant migratory shorebirds in New Hampshire, with perhaps two thousand or more birds passing through each fall. Like all such migrants, they breed primarily far to the north in arctic Canada and Alaska, where their entire breeding season is compressed into less than two months from June through July. Adults depart on fall migration well before their young, and some females may depart before the chicks can even fly. Pay close attention to Semipalmated Plovers at coastal sites and you will see a shift from mostly adult birds primarily in August to yearlings in October. The backs of young birds have a scaly appearance, and their face and breast markings are not as black as those of adults.

Because they are so common, Semipalmated Plovers are more frequently encountered than the very different Piping Plover, but the latter’s notoriety means that any small shorebird on a summer beach is assumed to be that species. The larger Killdeer also looks much like a Semipalmated Plover but possesses two breast bands rather than one. As for the “semipalmated” moniker, this plover has slight webbing between two of its toes, a feature not seen in any of its relatives.

Unlike many other shorebirds, the Semipalmated Plover is not currently of conservation concern, although its population is declining slightly. With high global populations, a dispersed wintering area, and less specialized nesting habitat, most threats are likely during migration. During this critical phase of the annual cycle, birds need to rest and feed along the way, and if prevented from doing so are less likely to successfully make the trip. For this reason, it is critical to give migrating shorebirds space when we encounter them in New Hampshire. Don’t let dogs run loose, and if you see a flock of shorebirds resting quietly on a beach (often in the washed-up detritus called wrack) be sure to give them a wide berth. They have a long way to go.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Semipalmated Plover
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count