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Mountain Plover

Charadrius montanus

Length: 9 inches Wingspan: 18 inches Seasonality: Rare Visitor
ID Keys: Pale and relatively plain, without chest band of some similar plovers.  Black forehead mark in summer.

Mountain Plover - Charadrius montanusThe Mountain Plover is poorly named, as it is primarily found in the short-grass prairies of the western Plains.  Despite being considered one of the "shorebirds", they are often many miles from any water source.  They have disappeared throughout much of their former range and are still in decline, due to loss of their short-grass prairie habitat.  Some have learned to utilize over-grazed pastures in the West.  It is probable that Mountain Plovers were once breeding in western South Dakota.  They still have breeding sites nearby in eastern Wyoming.

Habitat: Favors very open areas such as short-grass prairie, over-grazed pastures, and even bare soil.  Is often strongly associated with the relatively barren areas in and around prairie dog towns.  In the winter, they can be found in a variety of open habitats including plowed fields and desert salt flats.

Diet: Primarily insects.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Low dry krrrr, as well as a thin krrep.

Migration: Summers on flat open plains from northern Montana southward through New Mexico, in areas that were historically short-grass prairie.  Winters locally in the extreme Southwestern U.S. and California, and northern Mexico. 

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Mountain Plover sightings

Similar Species: American Golden Plover

Status: Numbers have declined greatly as native short-grass prairie has been converted to agricultural lands.  Historically, nesting Mountain Plovers often preferred the short vegetation found in and around prairie dog towns.  Declines in Mountain Plovers may be linked to severe declines in prairie dog populations as well.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Mountain Plover

2) WhatBird - Mountain Plover

3) Audubon Guide - Mountain Plover

Photo Information: Photo courtesy of Doug Backlund.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - Mountain Plover
South Dakota Status: Rare visitor, with a handful of records in the state.

Additional Mountain Plover Photos (coming soon!)