Mountain Plover - Illustration by George Maleski

Mountain Plover

Charadrius montanus


The mountain plover is a migratory bird that winters in Arizona. It is a small bird (seven inches) that resembles a killdeer. The winter plumage is light brown with a lighter colored breast.1 The bill is black and the feet are a yellow-brown color.2

Mountain plovers seek dry, disturbed, or intensively grazed, open, flat tablelands.3 Bare ground, short vegetation, and flat topography are the key links in mountain plover habitat.1 Historically, the plover has nested on black-tailed prairie dog towns.1 Currently, the mountain plover is associated with heavily grazed areas (near stock tanks)1, recently plowed ground, semi-desert, and prairie-dog towns.3 In some sites, the plover has been seen to nest near or under tall grass for shade.1 The mountain plover is one of the nine bird species endemic to the North American grasslands. Endemic grassland bird species have been declining significantly, and the mountain plover's decline has been greater than most.1

During the breeding season (late March to mid-June), most mountain plovers are found in Colorado and Montana. Breeding also occurs in Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nebraska, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.1 Mountain plovers winter mainly in the grasslands and cultivated fields of California, and to a lesser extent are found wintering in Arizona, Texas, and Mexico.1

The mountain plover primarily feeds on insects, such as grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets.

Mountain plovers often make their nests next to something conspicuous, such as a cow patty or a pile of rocks. The nest is a shallow depression in the ground, thinly lined with materials found nearby. The plover lays three camouflaged eggs which are incubated for twenty-eight days.4 Chicks can run and catch their food soon after hatching. They reach adult size thirty-five days after hatching, though they still cannot fly.4 Many eggs are lost due to predation and hail damage while many chicks are lost to predation from peregrine falcons, golden eagles, foxes, and loggerhead shrikes.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the mountain plover as a threatened species.

The Mountain Plover in Pima County:
The mountain plover has been reported to winter in southeastern Arizona.1 Small numbers of mountain plovers have been seen feeding in the Marana area.5 The mountain plover's decline has been linked to the destruction, modification, or reduction of its range. Prairie dog reduction, and conversion of grassland to cropland are both factors that have led to the conversion of suitable grassland to unsuitable land for plover use.


1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife. February 16, 1999. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Proposed Threatened Status for the Mountain Plover." Federal Register. Vol. 64(30). pp. 7587-7601.

2. Audubon, John James. Birds of America. 9/24/99 Web site:

3. Knopf, Fritz L. 1996. The Birds of North America. No.211. 9/24/99 Web site:

4. The Mountain Plover. 9/24/99 Web site:

5. Gyurko, Dorothy. April 1999. "Mountain Plover: A New Threatened Species." Tucson Audubon Society.


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