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Species Guide
A photo of a Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia)
Wilson's Plover

Wilson's Plover

Charadrius wilsonia

The Wilson's plover (Anarhynchus wilsonia) is a diminutive yet striking member of the Charadriidae family. It was named in honor of the Scottish-American ornithologist Alexander Wilson by his colleague George Ord in the early 19th century. Exhibiting sexual dimorphism, the breeding male is adorned with a bold black breast band, lores, and forecrown, complemented by a rufous mask. Females and non-breeding males share a similar appearance, though their black markings are replaced by brown or rufous, and non-breeders display a greyer hue on the head and breast band. Juveniles resemble females but often have an incomplete breast band. The species is characterized by dark grey upper parts, a short white wing bar, white tail sides, and a hefty dark bill, unusually large for a plover of its size. Adults boast pink legs, which become more vibrant during the breeding season.

Identification Tips

When identifying Wilson's plovers, look for the following key features: a large, heavy bill; a distinct breast band that varies in color depending on sex and breeding status; and pink legs that intensify in color during breeding. The bird measures approximately 6.3-7.9 inches in length, with a wingspan of around 19 inches, and weighs between 1.9 and 2.5 ounces.


Wilson's plovers are coastal birds, favoring sandy beaches or sandbars for their nesting grounds. They are strictly coastal, rarely venturing far from the shoreline.


This species is a partial migrant, with populations found along both the eastern and western coasts of the Americas. In the United States, they are present year-round in Florida but migrate south to Brazil for the winter. Some Mexican populations also migrate to Peru during the colder months. A small resident population exists in Brazil, known as the subspecies crassirostris.


Wilson's plovers forage on beaches, typically hunting by sight and moving at a leisurely pace. They exhibit a preference for crabs but will also consume insects and marine worms.

Song & Calls

The call of the Wilson's plover is a high-pitched, weak whistle, which can be heard along the coastal habitats they frequent.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of Wilson's plovers primarily consists of crabs, although they will opportunistically feed on insects and marine worms as well. They forage by sight, methodically searching the beach for their prey.

Conservation status

The Wilson's plover is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that, at present, the species does not face any immediate threat of extinction.

Wilson's Plover Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Wilson's Plovers on Birda


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A photo of a Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) , male

Kentish Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus
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