- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Charadriidae
The understated, elegant sandy plumage of the Mountain Plover blends perfectly with its pale shortgrass and desert surroundings—when alarmed, this bird often simply sits down and disappears. Nesting on high, dry plains of western North America, this species is a companion of classic prairie wildlife like bison, pronghorn, and prairie dogs. Sadly, intensive conversion of prairies to agriculture and other uses has hit this species hard, with more than 80% of the population gone in the last half-century.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The first thing to do when looking for a Mountain Plover is to carry along or borrow a spotting scope. These small shorebirds live in wide-open spaces and can look very much like a clump of sod. In summer, look for them on preserved patches of shortgrass prairie such as the Pawnee National Grasslands, Colorado. They often are attracted to prairie dog towns. In winter, look for them on plowed, newly planted, or fallow agricultural fields, as well as rangeland with short grass. eBird records can also help find places for patient searches.
- Chorlito Llanero (Spanish)
- Pluvier montagnard (French)
- Cool Facts
- Mountain Plover pairs usually make 2 simultaneous nests. The female lays half her eggs in each nest, and then the female incubates one while the male incubates the other.
- American naturalist John Kirk Townsend was the first to bring Mountain Plovers to the notice of science, in 1834, when he found one along the Sweetwater River of Wyoming. His colleague John James Audubon gave the bird its first name, the Rocky Mountain Plover, even though the species is a bird not of mountains but of prairie.
- Farmers and hunters sometimes refer to the Mountain Plover as the “prairie ghost,” on account of its ability to (seemingly) vanish into thin air—in fact, the bird usually just faces away from an observer and sits down, its upperparts indistinguishable from the pale tan color of the grassland around it.
- The oldest recorded Mountain Plover was at least 10 years old when it was resighted in Montana in the wild and identified by its band.