WatchList Species Account for Snowy Plover
(Charadrius alexandrinus)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: © Larry Master, NatureServe
Photo: Tom Grey

The Snowy Plover is a cosmopolitan species found not only in North and South America but in Eurasia and Africa. In North America it is resident on the Pacific Coast from Washington to Baja California, and also at scattered inland localities, including near the Great Salt Lake, in central Kansas and Oklahoma south to west Texas and southern New Mexico, and along the Gulf Coast from Florida into northern Mexico. There are also populations resident in central Mexico, the Yucatan, and the Bahamas.


During winter the bird withdraws from much of its inland U.S. range and spends the nonbreeding season along the Gulf Coast and both coasts of Mexico.


The number of birds in the U.S. is estimated at 21,000 in 1995, with nearly half the total number breeding at the Great Salt Lake, but the population along the Pacific and Gulf coasts of the U.S. is shrinking and its breeding sites becoming more fragmented due to habitat degradation and increased recreational use of beaches. The range of the bird has also shrunk and become more fragmented along the Gulf Coast.


Breeding habitat includes barren to sparsely vegetated beaches, salt flats, river bars, and sparsely vegetated flats along alkaline or saline lakes, in addition to reservoirs and sand bars in rivers. In winter the bird is gregarious and is found in many of the same habitats and also at agricultural waste-water ponds.


The breeding population has decreased since 1970, particularly along the Pacific Coast. In some localities along the West Coast nesting beaches are posted to protect the bird. Tthe Pacific Coast population has been designated as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.