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What is a Plover?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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A plover is a type of wading shorebird in the Charadriidae family. Around 40 species in this family are considered to be plovers, and representatives of the family can be found all over the world, along the shorelines of oceans, lakes, and other large bodies of water. Unfortunately, several plover species are considered to be threatened or even endangered, due to habitat pressures which have caused their numbers to decline. As a result, some sections of shoreline in many regions of the world have been designated as off-limits to humans, in the hopes of encouraging the plover population to revive.

Several features distinguish a plover from other shorebirds. They have squat, rounded bodies with heavy breasts, short tails, and small bills, and they tend to be extremely small. Plovers also move very erratically, typically socializing in large groups which swirl about from place to place, looking for food. Some people compare the movements of plovers to chickens, as the birds hunt and peck erratically while they seek out the marine invertebrates, insects, and worms which form the bulk of their diets.

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Plovers nest on the ground, typically digging shallow depressions in the earth and lining them with available plant material, animal hair, and other substances. Because plovers nest on the ground, their nests are at risk from heavy footed humans and other animals, who may crush the eggs by accident as they traverse the shoreline. Plovers are also threatened by predators such as dogs, who may disturb the birds, attack the parents, or eat the eggs.

The call of the plover is very distinctive, with most plovers making a range of whistling noises which can carry quite a ways along the seashore. Some plovers are famous for being quite noisy, and in a large group, a flock of plovers can be almost deafening. In areas with a great deal of biodiversity, plovers are often seen in the midst of flocks of other shorebirds, where they dart around opportunistically in search of dropped food.

Some notable examples of plovers include the New Zealand Wrybill, the only bird in the world with a beak which is bent sideways, and the killdeer, a killdeer which is famous for its penetrating calls. The snowy plover and piping plover are two species with well-advertised conservation campaigns behind them; snowy plover nesting areas are often found along North American seashores.

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