• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Black-bellied Plover

Pluvialis squatarola ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: CHARADRIIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A large shorebird of coastal beaches, the Black-bellied Plover is striking in its black-and-white breeding plumage. It is the largest plover in North America and can be found along the coasts in winter northward to Massachusetts and British Columbia.

eBird, submit your observations
Yard Map Birds Eye View

Appearance

Shorebirds
Shorebirds
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Medium-sized to large shorebird.
  • Legs moderately long.
  • Neck short.
  • Bill short.
  • Head large and rounded.
  • Gray and black on back.
  • In breeding plumage, black from face to belly.
  • Rump white.
  • Large black spot in armpits.

Male Description

Breeding male with vivid white stripe on either side of neck running from front of crown to wing. Crown pale gray, in palest individuals scarcely distinct from neck stripe, with scattered black spots to rear or heavily marked with black in some. A few males with crowns about as dark as females. Mantle, scapulars, and tertials black with white tips and notches on feathers, looking vividly barred. Lower back gray-brown, variably barred with black. Uppertail coverts white with fairly narrow black bars. Throat, foreneck, breast, and upper belly solid black; lower belly and undertail coverts white. Outermost undertail coverts with few well-defined black spots. Tail feathers white with a few narrow dark brown to black bars.

Female Description

Breeding females vary from almost as bright as males to markedly different. Head and neck stripe distinct in some but not in others. Crown varies from light gray-brown as in winter, to fairly heavily marked with dark brown; never entirely whitish as in male. In plainest females, back drab gray-brown, fringed with paler gray. In some, back heavily barred with dark brown to blackish, but never as vividly black-and-white looking as male. Lower back gray-brown with whitish fringes, uppertail coverts white with light to heavy brown barring. In most extreme individuals, underparts largely black except for lower belly and undertail coverts, but black usually mixed with white, may be thoroughly mottled or even largely white below. Outer undertail coverts often more heavily marked than in male, with dark brown to black spots. Tail feathers white with broad brown bars; tips often tinged brownish.

Immature Description

Juvenile similar to winter adult, but with heavily streaked breast and sides and complex pattern of pale dots all over upperparts. May be washed with golden brown.

Range Map Help

Black-bellied Plover Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult Breeding

    Black-bellied Plover

    Adult Breeding
  • Adult Breeding

    Black-bellied Plover

    Adult Breeding
    • © Raymond Lee, Elk Island NP, Alberta, Canada, May 2010
  • Adult Nonbreeding

    Black-bellied Plover

    Adult Nonbreeding
  • Adult Nonbreeding

    Black-bellied Plover

    Adult Nonbreeding
    • © Jason Crotty, Pillar Point Harbor, California, February 2010

Similar Species

Similar Species

  • The smaller American and Pacific golden-plovers lack white rumps, white wing stripes, and black armpits in all plumages. Juvenile golden-plovers are usually more golden brown on the back (but this is variable, with some Black-bellied Plovers being rather golden) and show a more distinct dark cap. In breeding plumage, golden-plovers have golden brown, not gray backs and have the black belly extending farther toward the tail.

    You Might Also Like

    All About Birds blog, First-Ever World Shorebirds Day Highlights Need for Conservation, September 5, 2014.

    Your Gift Counts Twice!

    Donate now to double your impact for birds and conservation.

    Your Gift Counts Twice!

    Donate now to double your impact for birds and conservation