Piping PloverCharadrius melodus

adult male, breeding
Roger Eriksson/VIREO
adult female, breeding
Steve Greer/VIREO
Johann Schumacher/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
nonbreeding adults
Richard Crossley/VIREO
adult and nestling
Johann Schumacher/VIREO
Piping Plover



6-7" (15-18 cm). A pale plover with sandy upperparts, narrow, incomplete black breast band, stubby bill with an orange base, and yellowish legs. Young birds are similar, with black bill and broken gray breast band. Snowy Plover has thin black bill and black legs. Semipalmated Plover has much darker upperparts.


A clear, whistled peep-lo.


courtship whistles (song)
alarm peeps
encounter calls
peeplo calls


Bare, dry, sandy areas, both inland and on the coast.


Breeds along Atlantic Coast from Quebec and Newfoundland south to North Carolina, and locally from Alberta east to Minnesota and Great Lakes. Winters on Atlantic and Gulf coasts, north regularly to Carolinas.


The color of dry sand, the Piping Plover is difficult to see on the beach. The eggs and downy chicks also blend with the sand. The Piping Plover arrives much earlier in spring and departs for the South much earlier in fall than does the Semipalmated Plover.


4 buff-white eggs, evenly marked with small dark spots, in a depression in the sand lined with pebbles and bits of shells.

Similar Species

adult male, breeding

Snowy Plover

5-7" (13-18 cm). A small whitish plover with pale brown upperparts, black legs, slender black bill, and small black mark on each side of breast.

adult male, breeding

Wilson's Plover

7-8" (18-20 cm). Male brown above and white below with a broad black eye patch and breast band, and heavy black bill. Female similar, but breast band is brown.

adult male, breeding

Common Ringed Plover

7" (19 cm). Nearly identical to Semipalmated Plover, from which best distinguished by call.

adult male, breeding

Semipalmated Plover

6-8" (15-20 cm). A brown-backed plover with white underparts and 1 black breast band. Bill stubby, yellow-orange, with dark tip. Immature has all-black bill and brownish breast band.


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