Semipalmated plover * Charadrius semipalmatus
By Jan Baumgartner
This tiny but mighty 2-ounce shorebird wings its way across the North American continent from summer breeding grounds near the Arctic Circle to winter vacation spots along the Gulf, Caribbean, and Atlantic coasts. Some plovers may opt for R&R on or near Siesta Key while others continue traveling south of the equator to the tropical coasts of South America.
Some of these crackerjack commuters may cruise more than 8,000 miles one-way! A little larger than a sparrow but smaller than a robin, the plover dines on worms and other bite-sized invertebrate morsels. Favoring locations like sandbars, mudflats and even muddy farm fields, the plover hunts by sprinting in short bursts and then pausing to look for signs of prey. When the next meal is pinpointed, the plover lunges like a coiled spring to snatch it.
The plover pictured here has seized a hidden marine worm, pulling it from its cozy burrow with an unrelenting tug. While the plover prefers to hunt in water less than an inch deep, it is a capable swimmer thanks to its semipalmated or partially webbed toes.