An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the “Black Bellied Plover”
Sep 06, 2018 12:23AM
By Paul Spear
An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the “Black Bellied Plover”The “Black Bellied Plover”
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Black Bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola), the largest plover in North America. This stocky plover breeds in high Arctic zones around the world, and winters on the coasts of six continents. Some can be seen along our beaches throughout the year (including non-breeding immatures through the summer). Although the Black-bellied Plover is quite plain in its non-breeding plumage, it adds much to the character of our shorelines with its haunting whistles, heard by day or night.
When feeding, they run a few steps and then pause, then run again, pecking at the ground whenever they spot something edible. Sometimes probing for hidden prey. Their diet consists of insects, mollusks, crustaceans, marine worms. Diet on the northern tundra is mostly insects, also some mollusks, and small amounts of plant material. In coastal situations (where it spends most of year), it eats many polychaete worms, also mollusks, crustaceans, some insects.
During nesting season, the male displays on territory by flying with slow, deep wingbeats, giving clear whistled notes. Females may be attracted by this display. In courtship, male lands near female, runs stiffly toward her with head low.
Nest site is on dry ground, often somewhat raised on a ridge or hummock, with good visibility. Their nest is a shallow scrape, lined with pebbles and bits of plant material; male begins scrape, female adds lining.
The female lays 4 eggs, sometimes 3. Buff to gray-green, with darker blotches. Incubation is
by both parents, 26-27 days. Downy young leave the nest shortly after hatching, find all their own food. Both parents tend young at first, then the female leaves before young are 2 weeks old. If predator threatens, adults may lure it away by putting on broken-wing act. Adults also mob predatory birds that come near nest area. Young are able to fly at 35-45 days; adult male may leave before young fledge.
I have seen a few of these large plovers on our beach in the last month near the Tijuana River. Take some time to walk our wonderful beach to see this bird and the many others that call IB their home.