WatchList Species Account for Mountain Plover
(Charadrius montanus)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Mountain Plover

Photo: © Dick Cannings,


Formerly widespread, the Mountain Plover has declined greatly in the last 100 years, largely due to conversion of native prairies to croplands. This plover was once widespread in the dry tablelands of the western Great Plains and the Colorado Plateau, including parts of Kansas and South Dakota, where it is no longer found. Nearly half its current population breeds in Phillips County, Montana, and within the “stronghold” of Weld County, Colorado; its remaining population breeds very locally elsewhere in its range.


Most Mountain Plovers winter in the Central, Imperial, and San Joaquin valleys of California, with lesser numbers in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. It is found on open, flat tablelands, in arid and disturbed areas, and in prairies on short, intensively grazed grass. The birds are often associated with prairie dog towns and areas of cattle concentration.


An insectivore, the Mountain Plover feeds principally on grasshoppers. In 1995, its total numbers were estimated at 8-10,000 birds, a dramatic decrease from the estimated 300,000 or so in 1975. Native predators, especially Swift Fox, limit the bird’s productivity in some parts of its range.


Controlled grassland burning in both the breeding and wintering range can be beneficial. It has been proposed but is not yet listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.