Birds – Semipalmated Plover

(AEgialitis semipalmata)


Length-6.75 to 7 inches. A trifle larger than the English sparrow.

Male and Female—Upper parts brownish gray; front of crown, band across base of bill, sides of head below eye, and band on breast, that almost encircles the neck, black; forehead, throat, ring around neck, parts of outer tail feathers, and under parts white. Brownish gray replaces the black in winter plumage. Bill black, orange at base; ring around eye bright orange; yellow toes, webbed at the base.

Range–North America at large; nesting from Labrador and Alaska northward to Arctic sea; winters from Gulf states to Bermuda, West Indies, Peru, and Brazil.

Season—Spring and autumn migrant; April, May; July, August, September; most plentiful in late summer and early autumn.

Closely associated with the friendly little sandpipers, these small plovers likewise haunt the beaches, their plumage in autumn being precisely the color of the wet sand they constantly run about on in small scattered flocks. When the tide goes out, their activities increase. Birds that have been hiding in the marshes and sand dunes now trip a light measure over the exposed sand bars and mud flats, leaving little tracks that may not be distinguished from those of the sand ox-eye or semipalmated sandpiper that hunts with them, although the plover has only three half webbed toes. The small, slightly elevated fourth toe of the ox-eye is only faintly evident at times in its tracks.

Tiny forms chase out after the receding waves, running in just in advance of the frothing ripples that do not quite overtake them, although the plovers almost never spring to wing as sandpipers do when a drenching threatens, but place all their trust in their fleet legs. With such feet as theirs, they must be able to swim; but who ever sees them in deep water? More silent, too, than sandpipers, it is chiefly when alarmed that two plaintive, sweet, but sometimes sharp notes escape them, whereas sand-pipers keep up their cheerful peep, peep, under all circumstances. Real danger summons the scattered flocks of ring-necks to wing into a compact mass that moves as if swayed by one mind ; but like most birds that nest too far north to become acquainted with murderous men, these gentle, confiding little plovers suspect no evil intentions and rarely fly away. Running to hide by squatting behind tufts of beach grass stills their small fears.

In the interior, for an inland route is followed as well as a coastwise one, the ring-neck runs about the margins of small lakes or ponds, rivers and marshes, everywhere looking for worms, small bits of shell fish, eggs of fish, and insects; always alert and busy and hungry. General Greeley found these plovers still nesting in Grinnell Land early in July; yet by the end of the month stragglers from large flocks begin to arrive in the United States—a little journey to try the wings of fledgelings en route to Brazil. It is said the male arranges the small pear shaped buff eggs, spotted with chocolate, with the pointed end toward the centre of the depression in the ground that answers as nest, the bet-ter to cover all four with his breast, for it is he who does most, if not all, of the incubating. Greenlanders, who have a longer opportunity to study this interesting little bird, say that it claps its wings before a storm and becomes strangely excited; but although it has the dainty habit of lifting its wings high above its back till they meet, on alighting, no excited clapping of them has been recorded here. This is the most abundant and most widely distributed of the ring-necks.