My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

The grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola), known as the black-bellied plover in North America, is a medium-sized plover breeding in Arctic regions. It is a long-distance migrant, with a nearly worldwide coastal distribution when not breeding.

They are 27–30 cm (11–12 in) long with a wingspan of 71–83 cm (28–33 in) and a weight of 190–280 g (6.7–9.9 oz) (up to 345 g (12.2 oz) in preparation for migration). In spring and summer (late April or May to August), the adults are spotted black and white on the back and wings. The face and neck are black with a white border; they have a black breast and belly and a white rump. The tail is white with black barring. The bill and legs are black. They moult to winter plumage in mid August to early September and retain this until April; this being a fairly plain grey above, with a grey-speckled breast and white belly. The juvenile and first-winter plumages, held by young birds from fledging until about one year old, are similar to the adult winter plumage but with the back feathers blacker with creamy white edging. In all plumages, the inner flanks and axillary feathers at the base of the underwing are black, a feature which readily distinguishes it from the other three Pluvialis species in flight. On the ground, it can also be told from the other Pluvialis species by its larger (24–34 mm (0.94–1.34 in)), heavier bill.

Their breeding habitat is Arctic islands and coastal areas across the northern coasts of Alaska, Canada, and Russia. They nest on the ground in a dry open tundra with good visibility; the nest is a shallow gravel scrape. Four eggs (sometimes only three) are laid in early June, with an incubation period of 26–27 days; the chicks fledge when 35–45 days old.

They migrate to winter in coastal areas throughout the world. In the New World they winter from southwest British Columbia and Massachusetts south to Argentina and Chile, in the western Old World from Britain and southwestern Norway south throughout coastal Africa to South Africa, and in the eastern Old World, from southern Japan south throughout coastal southern Asia and Australia, with a few reaching New Zealand. Most of the migrants to Australia are female. It makes regular non-stop transcontinental flights over Asia, Europe, and North America, but is mostly a rare vagrant on the ground in the interior of continents, only landing occasionally if forced down by severe weather, or to feed on the coast-like shores of very large lakes such as the Great Lakes, where it is a common passage migrant.

Young birds do not breed until two years old; they typically remain on the wintering grounds until their second summer.

They forage for food on beaches and tidal flats, usually by sight. The food consists of small molluscs, polychaete worms, crustaceans, and insects. It is less gregarious than the other Pluvialis species, not forming dense feeding flocks, instead feeding widely dispersed over beaches, with birds well spaced apart. They will however form dense flocks on high tide roosts.

 

On to my photos:

These photos were shot on a number of my visits to the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility over the past few years.

Black-bellied plover, winter plumage

Black-bellied plover, winter plumage

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola

 

This is number 198 in my photo life list, only 152 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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11 responses

  1. Oh my! Such great captures!

    November 21, 2016 at 1:32 am

    • Thank you very much Cindy! Some of them are good, some not so good.

      November 21, 2016 at 3:00 am

  2. Thanks for all the information and the excellent pictures.

    November 21, 2016 at 2:52 am

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      November 21, 2016 at 2:59 am

  3. How interesting to read all about this lovely bird. Its appearance certainly changes through the seasons. Love the first photo with its doleful eye!

    November 21, 2016 at 5:21 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! As much as their feathers change, it would be hard to tell what species they are, other than their very large size compared to most shorebirds.

      November 21, 2016 at 2:26 pm

  4. Thank-you for the information about this plover and the photos. I thought it looked familiar so I checked and find we call it the Grey plover.

    November 21, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! Yes, that species is known as the grey plover in other parts of the world.

      November 22, 2016 at 12:33 am

  5. I love the first and last shots. That’s a cute little bird!

    November 22, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen!

      November 22, 2016 at 11:50 pm

  6. That is a beautiful species with all the intricate mottling. Great photos, Jerry!

    November 26, 2016 at 11:54 pm