Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
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General Comments The Black-bellied Plover is one of the more familiar shorebirds of coastal areas, wintering in good numbers along shorelines and at mudflats. Across the rest of the state, it is known essentially as a very rare to rare migrant, normally seen only on mudflats at lakes with low water levels. The American common name is a poorly chosen one, as the lower belly is actually white; it is the breast and upper belly that are black (in breeding plumage only). The European name -- Grey Plover -- is an improvement, as the upperparts are speckled black and white at all seasons, and the underparts are whitish in non-breeding plumage. Black-bellied Plovers are most often observed on sand around salt water; ocean beaches and tidal mudflats are preferred. They are also seen in shallow fresh or brackish pools and flats, plowed fields, and lawns/mowed fields, at times with Killdeers.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S5N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient, and coastal winter resident. Common to very common in migration, and common in winter, along the immediate coast, slightly less common in midwinter on the northern coast; small numbers (of non-breeders) remain all summer. Mainly early Aug to early Jun. In Tidewater, generally uncommon in migration, and rare to uncommon in winter; farther inland, a very rare to locally rare migrant, mainly in May and again Aug thru Oct; but small numbers in Jun and Jul. One winter record from far inland (Sandhills) -- one at McKinney Fish Hatchery (Richmond), 24 Dec 1983. Peak counts: 1,000+, North River Farms (Carteret), 12 Jan 2014; 875, Mattamuskeet NWR, 25 Oct 2009; 500, Oregon Inlet, 3 Oct 1971.
Piedmont Transient. Rare in fall, and very rare to rare in spring, in the eastern part of the province (such as at Falls and Jordan lakes); only scattered records elsewhere. Mainly early to late May, and a wider span in fall from late Jul to mid-Nov. Peak counts: 24, Falls Lake, 17 Aug 1985; 16, Falls Lake, 10 Oct 1993; peak in spring - 10, Lake Adger (Polk), 15 May 1989.
Mountains Transient. Very rare (about 25 records) in the Henderson/Transylvania area of the southern mountains only; apparently no records elsewhere. A preponderance of records are from the Hooper Lane area of northern Henderson. Mid-Apr to early Jun, and mid-Aug to late Sep; one on 11 Nov 2009. Peak counts: 28, Hooper Lane, 16 May 2018; 17, Hooper Lane, 31 Aug 2000; 16, Hooper Lane, 18 Aug 2021; 11, Hooper Lane, 30 Aug 2005; 11 (peak count in period), Hooper Lane, 5-22 May 2003; 11 at that site, 31 Aug 2017.
Finding Tips This species is easily found along the coast except during Jun. Inland birds are most often found on extensive mudflats at lakes, mostly in mid-autumn.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-08-09], LeGrand[2023-03-10], LeGrand[2022-02-08]
NC Map
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