Of the 66 species occurring worldwide, 7 are found breeding in Canada. Killdeer, semipalmated, black-bellied and American golden plovers (Charadrius vociferus, C. semipalmatus, Pluvialis squatarola and P. dominicus, respectively) are the most widely distributed species in Canada. Common ringed plovers (C. hiaticula) breed in northeastern arctic Canada; piping plovers (C. melodus) from southeastern central Alberta to Manitoba, in eastern Québec and the Maritimes and, until recently, Ontario; and mountain plovers (C. montanus) in southeastern Alberta and probably southwestern Saskatchewan.
Plovers have plump bodies, short necks and short bills, which are expanded near the tip. Although none are brightly coloured, many have strongly marked plumage patterns of black, white and brown that are conspicuous in flight. Because invertebrate prey are located visually, plovers have relatively large eyes and good eyesight.
True plovers are characterized by tapering wings. Many species have one or more breast bands (ringed); most have melodious calls. Lapwings are much larger than true plovers and are recognizable by their broad, rounded wings. Some have feather crests or wattles of skin on the face and spurs on the wings, features that are important in courtship displays and territory defence.
Most plovers are gregarious outside the breeding season, gathering in flocks of several hundreds to thousands. They fly strongly and migrate from coastal, winter feeding areas on bays and estuaries, north to breeding sites in remote arctic regions.
Nests are a shallow scrape in the ground with little or no lining. Usually 4 eggs are laid (range 2-4). Chicks are down-covered on hatching and leave the nest soon after they are dry. Normally, parents share incubation (21-30 days) and guarding of chicks. All plovers use elaborate distraction displays, such as the "broken wing" display, to lure predators away from eggs or young.
Author A.J. BAKER
Links to Other Sites
All About Birds
Search this online bird identification guide for information on specific bird species found in North America. Click on the dynamic map of eBird sightings for a magnified view. From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the US.
Canadian Biodiversity Website
A great information source for all budding biologists. Learn about biodiversity theory, natural history, and conservation issues. From McGill’s Redpath Museum.
Hinterland Who's Who
Check out the extensive "Hinterland Who's Who" website for illustrated "Species Fact Sheets" about mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects found in Canada. Also covers related conservation and biodiversity issues and includes related multimedia and educational resources. From the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Species at Risk Public Registry
A searchable database of Canadian species at risk. Provides illustrated natural histories of each species as well as information about recovery programs, a glossary, and more. From Environment Canada.
Bird Studies Canada
The website for “Bird Studies Canada,” an organization dedicated to preserving wild birds and their habitats. Search this site for the latest information on bird sightings and populations, checklists and maps, species at risk, and more.