Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
spanwidth min.: 32 cm
spanwidth max.: 35 cm
size min.: 15 cm
size max.: 17 cm
incubation min.: 24 days
incubation max.: 27 days
fledging min.: 27 days
fledging max.: 31 days
eggs min.: 2
eggs max.: 4
Kentish Plovers are small and inconspicuous, weighing about two ounces, with a 13-inch wingspan, and a length of six to seven inches. They have white undersides and buff-colored upperparts that blend in with their sandy surroundings. In breeding plumage, males have a black bar across the front of the crown, a dark stripe behind each eye, and black side patches. Females are similar, but somewhat drabber, with brown markings. The birds have dark legs and black bills.
Kentish Plovers inhabit sandy beaches and salt flats throughout much of the world, where they nest in shallow depressions on bare, open ground. On the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico Coasts, they are found on barren beaches, dry salt flats in lagoons, dredge spoils deposited on beaches or dunes, levees and flats at salt-evaporation ponds, and river sand bars. Inland populations live along alkaline or saline lakes, reservoirs, ponds, and braided river channels. In Florida, where most birds live on sandy beaches, a few have been found using paved parking lots at Eglin Air Force Base.
Charadrius alexandrinus is a widespread breeder in coastal areas of western and southern Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is relatively small (10%) overall.
In North America, the species breeds along the Gulf Coast from Florida to the Yucatan Peninsula; the Pacific Coast from Washington to Baja, California; and in scattered locations across the western interior, from Saskatchewan to Texas. Outside of the breeding season, they are found in coastal areas on the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and various Caribbean islands. Most live west of the Rocky Mountains, with a significant number concentrated around Utah's Great Salt Lake.
Coastal Kentish Plovers feed on tiny aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, including crustaceans, mollusks, marine worms, and insects. Interior populations eat mainly insects. The birds often forage in loose flocks by pausing, looking, running, and then pecking to seize prey. They also probe in sand for food, or charge with open mouths to capture flies.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 280,000-460,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Kentish Plovers typically begin breeding their first year. Both sexes actively defend their territories from predators and intruders by posturing, chasing, or fighting. The birds often form loose colonies; their nests are simple scrapes on bare open ground, frequently located near a conspicuous object like a clam shell, a piece of kelp, or driftwood. Nests are lined with pebbles, bits of shell, fish bones, grass, and other debris. Clutches normally consist of three eggs, buff colored, lightly to moderately covered with small spots and scrawls, mostly dark brown to black, with some gray. Eggs weigh about a fifth of the female's weight and both parents incubate the eggs for 25 to 32 days. Some West Coast populations may raise two broods a year, and if the breeding season is long enough, even three. Chicks are soon able to feed themselves. Parents lead them to foraging areas and act as sentinels and protectors until they fledge approximately four weeks later.