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Semipalmated Plover

Charadrius semipalmatus

Length: 7 inches Wingspan: 14 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Single black neck band, black mask with white above bill, short black-tipped orange bill, yellow-orange legs

Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatusThe Semipalmated Plover is the most common of the small plovers that migrate through the state.  The name "Semipalmated" refers to the partial webbing found between the bird's toes.  With a very short stubby bill, unlike many other shorebirds that migrate simultaneously as the Semipalmated Plover, they do not probe in the mud for food items, instead only plucking items from the surface. They also thus tend to forage more on open mud flats as opposed to the shallow water habitats preferred by many shorebirds.


Prefers very open habitats during migration through the state, such as open mudflats, sandy beaches, or plowed fields.  Avoids wetland areas with heavy vegetation.   At breeding grounds in northern North America, they prefer sandy or mossy tundra.


Insects, earthworms, small mollusks and crustaceans.  Also marine worms and various marine animal eggs on wintering grounds.


Usually moves quickly along the shoreline, walking quickly and periodically pausing, grabbing food items when spotted.


Non-breeder in South Dakota.  In their breeding range in northern North America, they build a simple scrape nest on the ground, sometimes lined with a bit of vegetation.  The female lays 4 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  After the eggs hatch, the young quickly leave the nest.  They are tended to by both parents, but they find their own food.


Crisp rising chweep or a shorter call note.


Summers in northern Canada and Alaska.  Winters along U.S. coasts all the way down through South America.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird  map of Semipalmated Plover sightings

Similar Species:

The plumage patterns of a Semipalmated Plover are similar to some other plover species, while multiple other plovers share the small size of the species.

Piping Plover 6 - Charadrius melodus Piping Plover 10 - Charadrius melodus Killdeer 14 - Charadrius vociferus Killdeer 18 - Charadrius vociferus
Piping Plover Piping Plover Killdeer Killdeer

Conservation Status:

Like many of the shorebirds, numbers of Semipalmated Plover were seriously depleted during the 19th century due to hunting.  They have since recovered and are now widespread and common, and are also found across a very wide geographic range.  Population trends are considered stable and may have been increasingly slightly over recent decades. The IUCN lists the Semipalmated Plover as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

August 17th, 2013 - Lake County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Semipalmated Plover photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - Semipalmated Plover
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant throughout the state.

Additional Semipalmated Plover Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Semipalmated Plover 1 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 2 -  Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 3 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 4 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 5 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 6 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 7 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 8 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 9 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 10 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 11 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 12 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 13 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 14 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 15 - Charadrius semipalmatusSemipalmated Plover 16 - Charadrius semipalmatus