Friday, May 10, 2013

A different kind of Plover

We are now well into May and shorebird migration is heating up. The species that nest to our north have yet to pass through in sizable numbers but they are growing in quantity and diversity every day. Because of the later start to nesting in those regions they move through at this time and quickly exit in July and August with rapid breeding seasons squeezed in before the earlier autumn. With our longer period of warmth our birds have it made, don't they?

These are Semipalmated Plovers, not Piping Plovers, photographed at Stratford Point on May 7.

The two species can appear a bit similar when you see one or two at a time from a distance, but a closer examination shows their differences. They have dark faces and are brown on their backs, wings, and head, not gray. Their chest band and forehead are more black than the Piping Plover. These features are also larger in size. Their call has a "chewy" sound to it instead of the classic peeps of the Piping Plover.

Another difference can be in how many you observe. They will be seen in numbers from a few to dozens to the low hundreds in the spring and perhaps up to several hundred during the fall migration at critical locations in Connecticut. This will never be the case with the Piping Plover! Depending on the species shorebirds can take similar or slightly different migratory corridors when heading north or south, but for the most part you will see more of them on the southbound journey because of young birds born during the summer.

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

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