Critters of North Idaho: Semipalmated plover

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  • Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo Semipalmated plover

  • 1

    Ryan

  • Photo: Glenn Bartley/Vireo Semipalmated plover

  • 1

    Ryan

Run, run, run, run, STOP!

Peck the ground for food. Run, run, run, run, STOP!

So goes the quirky walk cycle of the semipalmated plover (Charadrius semipalmatus). If you’re in the Coeur d’Alene area over the summer months, chances are you’ve seen this bird plenty of times. If for some reason you haven’t, then be on the lookout for its brown feathers on the upper parts of its body, contrasted with the white patterning on its underbelly, chest and the sides of its head. It’s also got large eyes, a short beak and yellow-orange legs. When it isn’t the breeding season, its forecrown will be brown.

This wee little bird weighs only 0.78-2.22 ounces and usually gets about 5.5-7.9 inches in length from beak to tail. When its wings are outstretched, it measures 14-22 inches in width. The semipalmated plover belongs to the Charadriidae family, which consists of 64-66 species of dotterels, lapwings, and of course, plovers. The semipalmated plover gets its name from the Latin words semi, meaning “half,” and palma, which means “palm,” in reference to its partially webbed feet.

Speaking of food, what’s on the menu for this little guy? Well now that depends on the time of year. Semipalmated plovers are migratory. Their breeding grounds are throughout northern Canada and Alaska, where male and female pair off to spend the summer raising four cute, fluffy chicks.

During this time of year and their migration period, which is late spring and early fall, they typically feed on flies, fly larvae and other insects they find along lakeshores and other bodies of water, but they’ll also snack on worms.

In the winter, they travel south, anywhere from along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America and South America. Here they add marine worms, small mollusks and crustaceans to their diet.

August is primetime for these birds to be traveling through the Coeur d’Alene area. So throughout the month, be sure to say hi to our feathery summer traveler, the semipalmated plover!

•••

Christian Ryan can be reached at animaladventures1314@gmail.com

Sources:

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/semipalmated-plover

http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/semipalmated_plover#

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