Share | facebook twitter instagram flickr flickr

Did you know?

Ospreys are an indicator species. The health of their population has implications for the health our coastal ecosystems.

Image of Instagram logo


New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide

Image of Semipalmated plover.Zoom+ Semipalmated plover. © Jan van de Kam

Semipalmated plover

Charadrius semipalmatus

Species Group: Bird

Conservation Status

State: Other Classification



Semipalmated plovers are small, dark-brown shorebirds with white underparts. In breeding plumage, they have a distinct black neck-ring and a black eye mask with a small white patch over the bill. Above the black neck-ring, a white band extends across the throat. Semipalmated plovers have orange legs and black-tipped orange bills. Females are similar to males, but slightly larger and with duller plumage. Non-breeding plumage is similar to breeding plumage, and is the same for males and females.

Image of Range of the semipalmated plover in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the semipalmated plover in New Jersey.


Like many other shorebirds, semipalmated plovers breed in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America, ranging from Alaska to Nova Scotia. Their breeding season lasts from early May to late August. Using consistent seasonal migratory routes, they travel to North, Central, and South America for the winter. When migratingthrough the United States, semipalmated plovers stop at lakeshores, ponds, or flooded fields, such as those found in the Delaware Bayshore area.


The primary diet of semipalmated plovers is carnivorous, including mollusks, insects, non-insect arthropods, aquatic crustaceans, and marine worms (particularly during migration and in winter). Opportunistic feeders, these plovers will also consume seeds, grains, and nuts.

Like many plovers, semipalmated plovers sometimes utilize a technique called foot-trembling to capture their prey: the motion of tapping or trembling one leg disrupts invertebrates in the ground. The startled invertebrates move to the surface, where they are then easily caught by the visually-minded plovers.


During breeding season from May to August, semipalmated plovers are monogamous. Mates pair up on breeding grounds, where males perform a butterfly-like fluttering courtship display to delineate their territory and attract females. An average clutch sizes is 4 eggs, which are incubated by both the male and the female for almost one month. Studies indicate that pairs may stay together in later seasons.

Semipalmated plover chicks are precocial, meaning they can walk and feed within hours after hatching. The parents continue to brood the chicks for up to 5 days. About 2 weeks after the chicks have hatched, the female leaves and the male stays as the sole guardian of the nest. Between 3 and 4 weeks after the eggs have hatched, the chicks are fully fledged.


In New Jersey, semipalmated plovers are not listed as threatened or endangered. However, there are current efforts to protect major migratory stopover sites for plovers and other shorebirds. Furthermore, efforts are being taken to minimize disturbance during breeding seasons in the Arctic, such as minimizing ATV activity and vehicle pullover onto roadside nesting habitat.

Text written by Taran Catania in 2013.


  • Chang, Elaine. "Charadrius semipalmatus". 2011. Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. Accessed: July 31, 2013. Available at:
  • Nol, Erica, and Michele S. Blanken. "Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)". Ithaca, NY, 1999. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.).Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Accessed: July 30, 2013. Available at:
  • Stokes, Donald, and Lillian Stokes. Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1996.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
       Class: Aves
          Order: Charadriiformes
             Family: Charadriidae
                Genus: Charadrius
                   Species: C. semipalmatus

Find Related Info: Shorebirds

Report a sighting

Image of Red knot.

Report a sighting of a banded shorebird or rare species.


Become a Member

Join Conserve Wildlife Foundation today and help us protect rare and imperiled wildlife for the future.


Wildlife Photographers

Join our Endangered Wildlife of New Jersey group on

Image of Flickr logo


Download the complete list of New Jersey's Endangered, Threatened, & Special Concern species.