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Semipalmated Plover, Catherine Jardine
Photo © Catherine Jardine

Photo: Catherine Jardine
Breeding evidence - Semipalmated Plover
Breeding evidence

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Semipalmated Plover
Charadrius semipalmatus

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
8 - 1794 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
22 12 11 9
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
BBS trends are not available for this species

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.08     0.31
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range This attractive little plover is a long-distant migrant, travelling thousands of kilometres from its southern wintering grounds to breed in arctic and boreal regions from northwest Alaska to Newfoundland (Nol and Blanken 2014). The very similar Common Ringed Plover (C. hiaticula) is a sister species occupying a similar niche in Eurasia. Semipalmated Plovers disperse widely to winter on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, mainly from California and Virginia south along much of the Central and South American coast, and also on offshore islands such as the Bahamas, West Indies and Galapagos (Nol and Blanken 2014).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat Evidence of breeding is restricted to the Coast and Mountains, Central Interior and Northern Boreal Mountains ecoprovinces, with one record of possible breeding in the Sub-boreal Interior Ecoprovince. The Atlas data closely match the breeding records in The Birds of British Columbia published in 1990, specifically with confirmed breeding in the mountains of northwestern British Columbia, on the Chilcotin Plateau, and on Haida Gwaii (centred on the same locations identified in The Birds of British Columbia: Sandspit, mouth of Tlell River and near Massett). The total population breeding on Haida Gwaii is estimated to be 100 pairs (Nol and Blanken 2014). Irregular breeding at Iona Island in the Fraser River delta reported up to 1990 (Campbell et al. 1990, Campbell 2015) was not confirmed in 2008-2012. Atlas data were insufficient to analyse the Probability of Observation. In British Columbia, this species is much less common as a breeder than as a migrant, both on the coast and in the interior (Campbell et al. 1990, Campbell 2004).

Nesting in British Columbia occurs in two distinct landscapes: close to sea level on sand dunes or gravel and often among drift logs, or at higher elevations (above 500 m) close to water in gravelly substrates (Campbell et al. 1990, Campbell 2004). Nests are simple scrapes sometimes lined with grasses, seaweeds, shells or stones and are often placed near larger rocks, logs or other objects (Campbell et al. 1990, Nol and Blanken 2014).

Conservation and Recommendations The species is not considered to be at risk, but breeding sites along ocean shores might be subjected to disturbance and nest destruction from humans, dogs and off-road vehicles. Based on surveys at major wintering grounds the continental population is around 200,000 birds; numbers might have increased slightly from 1974 through 2009 but are now regarded as stable (Andres et al. 2012, Nol and Blanken 2014). Population limitation is poorly understood, but appears to be due to winter mortality and perhaps restricted breeding opportunities in some areas (Nol and Blanken 2014). Breeders tend to have high fidelity to their nesting sites (Nol and Blanken 2014); continued monitoring at the known breeding sites should therefore provide good information on population trends in the province.

Alan E. Burger

Recommended citation: Burger, A. E. 2015. Semipalmated Plover in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [14 Jun 2024]

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