Family Plovers (Charadriidae)

Near Threatened

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)


French: Pluvier siffleur German: Flötenregenpfeifer Spanish: Chorlitejo silbador

Charadrius melodus


, 1824,

Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey, USA


In the past, subspecies recognized on basis of extent of breastband and breeding habitat, but subdivision rendered unsatisfactory owing to considerable individual and seasonal variation. Recent molecular study, however, revealed that inland-nesting circumcinctus differs genetically from coast-nesting melodus#R; although corroborating evidence needed, it seems likely that division into subspecies is appropriate. Two subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. m. melodus Ord, 1824 – Atlantic coast from Newfoundland S to North Carolina.
  • C. m. circumcinctus (Ridgway, 1874) – Great Plains and Great Lakes of C North America (CS Canada to NC USA).
  • Winters on Atlantic coast of S USA, Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas and rather locally in Greater Antilles; also W Mexico (Sonora).

    Descriptive notes

    17–18 cm; 43–64 g; wingspan 36 cm. Small, chubby plover; stubby orange bill with black tip; short bright orange legs; black frontal bar and breastband, latter... read more


    Most-frequently heard calls a short mellow “peep” and a diagnostic plaintive double... read more


    Coastal population (nominate race) breeds on sandy beaches; birds of Great Plains and Canadian... read more

    Food and feeding

    Aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, along with their larvae and eggs; polychaete worms, insects (e.g. midges, flies, grasshoppers and... read more


    Lays late Apr to early May, with replacement nests until mid Jul. Seasonally monogamous, sometimes for longer, with up to 20% of pairs... read more


    Inland breeders (race circumcinctus) appear to undertake non-stop autumn migration to... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Global population of mature individuals put at c. 8000 in 2006. Came close to extinction around 1900, due to... read more

    Recommended citation

    Wiersma, P., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A., de Juana, E. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 January 2020).