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Five species of Plover occur in New York and New England. The Killdeer is rare and occurs only as an accidental migrant or as a local summer resident. The Golden Plover is a regular autumn migrant, but is far less common than the Black-bellied Plover, and is becoming steadily rarer. The Black-bellied Plover, the Beetle-head of the gunners, is not uncommon on mud-flats and sand-bars. The Piping Plover breeds not uncommonly on the sandy beaches of Long Island and Martha's Vineyard, and sparingly on Cape Cod and on the Maine coast; it occurs also as a not uncommon migrant at other beaches in New England. The Semipalmated Plover, the Ring-neck of the sportsmen, is by far the commonest member of the family. It associates regularly with the smaller sandpipers, either on the beaches or in the sloughs in the marshes. Plover may be told from sandpipers by their shorter bills. All but the Black-bellied Plover have a habit of bobbing the head as they stand.

PIPING PLOVER. Ægialitis meloda
7.00 in. Bill .50 in.

Ad. ♂.— Forehead, throat, and ring around neck white; forward part of crown black; a partial ring, broken in the middle of the breast, black; rest of upper parts light brownish-gray; tip of tail black; breast and belly white; base of bill orange, tip black; feet yellow. Ad. ♀.— Similar, but the black bars tending toward brownish, and less distinct.

Eggs, laid in a hollow on little pebbles on the open sand, creamy white, speckled or spotted with dark brown.

The Piping Plover is one of the few waders that breed on the coasts of New York and New England; it may therefore be looked for in June and early July, when there is only the Spotted Sandpiper from which it must be distinguished. It also occurs as a regular but not common migrant in April and May, and again in August and September. It breeds on the sand beaches of Long Island, Martha's Vineyard, and the adjoining islands, and sparingly on Cape Cod, at Ipswich, Mass., and on the Maine coast.

Piping Plover

Piping Plover

Its sweet but mournful call consists of two notes, pi-pee', the first very short and about half an interval above the second. The bird frequents the upper part of the beach, where its pale colors harmonize so perfectly with the dry sand that it is often invisible till it starts to fly. It bobs, like its relative the Semipalmated Plover, but may be distinguished by its lighter color, and by the difference in the black collar, which in the Piping Plover does not cross the breast.

6.75 in. Bill 0.50 in.

Ad.— Forehead white; forward part of crown, stripe under each eye and over bill black; throat and narrow ring around neck white; band across breast and neck black; rest of upper parts grayish-brown; rest of under parts white; legs yellow; base of bill orange; tip black.

The Semipalmated Plover, or Ring-neck, is a common migrant along the sea-coast in May, and again from the middle of July to October.

Ring-necks frequent the beaches and mud-flats exposed at low tide. They are not, as a rule shy, and if startled, fly only a short distance, uttering as they rise a sweet call, chee-wee, as characteristic of the mud-flats and beaches as the kew, kew, kew, kew of the Yellow-legs is of the grassy marshes. They are often associated with the smaller sandpipers known as “Peep” [Least Sandpiper], or with their larger relative the Black-bellied Plover; their bobbing readily distinguishes them from the Peep. They are much commoner than the Piping Plover, and are a darker shade of brown on the back, the color of wet rather than of dry sand. The black ring encircles the breast, while in the Piping Plover the black bands from each side of the breast do not meet.


Semipalmated Plover

KILLDEER. Oxyechus vociferus
10.50 in.

Ad.— Head and back brown; ring entirely around neck white, edged on the hind neck with black; forehead, stripe over eye, throat, and lower parts white; two black bands across breast, the lower one narrow; rump and base of tail cinnamon.

Nest, on ground. Eggs, buffy-white, with chocolate markings, chiefly at the larger end.

The Killdeer is a rare summer resident in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and a rare spring and fall migrant along the coast. It occasionally appears in western Massachusetts, and on Long Island has been recorded in every month but January. In the breeding season it is noisy and restless, continually uttering the complaining kill-dee, from which it gets its name, and occasionally a rolling whistle a little like that of the Upland Plover. Like most of the plovers, it bobs constantly. It may be readily distinguished from the smaller Ring-necks [Semipalmated Plover] by the two bands of black and by the cinnamon rump and base of tail, which are conspicuous in flight.

The Killdeer's wings are long and narrow, and its flight graceful and vigorous, suggesting somewhat that of the Sparrow-Hawk [Kestrel].



AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER. Charadrius dominicus
10.50 in. Bill .90 in.

Ad. in breeding plumage.— Top of head and upper parts black, spotted with bright yellow and white; tail dark grayish-brown, barred with white, tinged with yellow; a white line from forehead passes over the eyes, and broadens into a wide patch on the side of the breast; sides of head, neck, throat, and under parts black. Ad. in late summer and fall.— Upper parts as in spring, but duller; under parts white, with a few grayish-brown feathers on neck and breast. Im.— Upper parts dusky, mottled with dull whitish spots, becoming yellow on the rump; under parts ashy, especially on neck and breast.

The Golden Plover is a migrant along the coast, extremely rare in spring and rather rare in fall, passing north in May, and returning from the end of August to November. It is occasionally found on the flats left bare by the tide, but is more likely to occur well up on the beach, or still more frequently on the short grass of marshes or hillsides, especially where the ground has been burned over.

The call of the Golden Plover is a bright whistle, queep, quee-lee-leep, without the mournful character of the Blackbelly's call, and with no modulation. It has also a note like the syllable queedle. Immature birds resemble young Black-bellied Plover, but are much less common. They may be distinguished at close range by the absence of the whitish tail, and of the white in the outspread wings. The Golden Plover bobs regularly and the Black-belly rarely, if ever.

11.00 in. Bill 1.10 in.

Ad. in spring.— Hind head and back black, spotted and barred with white; tail white, barred with brownish-black; wings showing white in flight; sides of head and neck, throat and breast, and upper belly black, bordered by white on each side, the white border meeting over the forehead; feathers under the raised wings black. Ad. in late summer and fall. Upper parts dark brown, speckled with white; under parts white, with an occasional black feather; tail and wings as in spring. Im.— Upper parts lighter and with a golden shade on each feather; under parts white.

The Black-bellied Plover is a rather common migrant along the coast in spring and fall, passing north in May, and returning from late July to November. The young birds which appear in August are called Beetle-heads by the gunners; as they are more numerous than the adults and far less wary, they are more often seen by students. Both old and young frequent the mud-flats and sand-bars left bare by the tide; here they feed either alone or in company with Ring-necks, Turnstones, and Peep. They scatter when feeding like Ring-necks and stand about heading in different directions, or after a short run, pick something from the sand. So far as I know, they do not bob, though all our other plovers do.

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover

The notes of the Black-belly are among the most musical uttered by shore-birds; the call most often heard, either from flying or standing birds, consists of three syllables, all legato, the first prolonged, the second a bit lower and short, the last higher than the first. They are not unlike the toor-a-wee of a bluebird, but are lower in pitch, more prolonged and mournful. When feeding with other birds, the Black-bellies may easily be distinguished by their greater size; the whitish tail and the white in the wing readily identify them in flight. It is quite possible for a sharp eye to note the black axillars, the long feathers close to the body under the raised wing, either just as the bird raises his wings to fly, or as he takes his strokes.

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