WatchList Species Account for Wilson’s Plover
(Charadrius wilsonia)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: © Bill Hubick
Photo: Bill Hubick

The Wilson’s Plover is a strictly coastal species that breeds from the eastern shore of Virginia to Florida and along the Gulf Coast into Mexico, in the West Indies and Bahamas, along both coasts of Mexico and Central America either as a resident or wintering bird, and on both coasts of South America. Its breeding range in the U.S. is shrinking at its northern limits; the bird formerly bred in New Jersey and Maryland.


Its preferred habitat includes areas along the coast with high salinity and sparse vegetation, including sand dunes, coastal lagoons, and salt flats, but also barrier islands and dredge spoil islands; it sometimes co-occurs with Piping and Snowy Plovers. The Wilson's Plover nests in isolated pairs or loose colonies. In winter it is often found foraging on intertidal mudflats. It feeds largely on crustaceans but also small mollusks, marine worms and insects and their larvae.


As is the case with Piping and Snowy Plovers, threats to the Wilson’s Plover include loss of beach habitat through development, disturbance to nesting areas by beachgoers and pets, vehicle traffic on the beach, and occasionally free-ranging cattle and pigs.


An approximate estimate of total numbers in North America is 6,000 individuals. Conservation of the Wilson's Plover could be improved by fencing protected areas and patrolling by these areas to protect breeding birds.