Western Snowy Plover, Barbara Woodmansee
© Barbara Woodmansee

Western Snowy Plover

Basic Facts About Western Snowy Plovers

The western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) is a small wading shorebird with pale brown wings, back, tail and head and white under parts. It has dark patches on either side of the upper breast, dark gray to blackish legs and a black bill.

Western Snowy Plover, © Photo by Michael L. Baird

© Photo by Michael L. Baird


Western snowy plovers eat invertebrates like crustaceans and mollusks, marine worms, along with insects.


There are an estimated 2,600 western snowy plovers along the Pacific coast.


Did You Know?

Plover nests are camouflaged to look like sand and are barely visible to even the most well-trained eye.

Western snowy plovers are found throughout the southwestern United States from Texas to California and up to Colorado, as well as Washington and Oregon.


Snowy plovers are primarily visual foragers, using the run-stop-peck method of feeding typical of most plover species. They forage on invertebrates in the wet sand and amongst surf-cast kelp within the inter-tidal zone, in dry, sandy areas above the high tide, on salt pans, on spoil sites and along the edges of salt marshes, salt ponds and lagoons. They sometimes probe for prey in the sand and pick insects from low-growing plants.

Western snowy plovers make nests on sand spits, dune-backed beaches, beaches at creek and river mouths and the banks of lagoons and estuaries. The nests, or scrapes, are made in small depressions, often human footprints in the sand, and are constructed using pebbles, shell fragments, fish bones, mud chips, vegetation fragments, or invertebrate skeletons.

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