Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Semipalmated Plover - Charadrius semipalmatus
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General Comments The Semipalmated Plover is the only one of the four regularly occurring Charadrius plovers in the state that breeds in the Arctic tundra. It is a very numerous transient species, and a much less common wintering bird, along the coast. As with many other shorebirds, it is regular inland, but always in much smaller numbers than along the coast. The Semipalmated favors wet mud (that matches the brown color of its back) for foraging; thus, numbers are highest at tidal mudflats and shallow shores of impoundments, as opposed to ocean beaches and sandflats. It shows little favoritism regarding water salinity; inland mudflats, brackish flats, and salt water flats are all commonly used.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S4N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient and winter resident. Common to briefly and locally abundant in spring and fall along the coast; fairly common in winter along the southern half of the coast (town of Beaufort southward), but uncommon on the northern half of the coast; rare to very uncommon in early summer. Primarily mid-Jul to early Jun. Mostly uncommon transient in the Tidewater zone, though can be common at Lake Mattamuskeet; rarely found in winter. Farther inland, rare to uncommon in spring, and uncommon in fall, at suitable lakes and ponds. Peak counts: 10,000, Pea Island NWR, 21 Aug 1972; 9,000, Fort Fisher (New Hanover), 25 Aug 2017; 8,000, Fort Fisher, 16 Oct 2003.
Piedmont Transient. Rare to very uncommon in spring, and uncommon to occasionally fairly common, in fall; mainly at larger reservoirs such as Falls and Jordan lakes; probably casual to very rare in counties that lack sizable bodies of water. Primarily late Apr to late May, with a peak from 1-20 May, and late Jul to late Sep, with a peak in early Sep. Peak counts: 75, Falls Lake, 23 Aug 2002; 71, Jordan Lake, 15 Sep 2007; 66, Jordan Lake, 17 Aug 2002.
Mountains Transient. Rare to very uncommon in the Henderson/Transylvania area; very rare elsewhere. Unlike farther eastward, there are more records in spring than in fall; late Apr to late May, and late Jul to late Sep. Peak counts: 40+, Hooper Lane (Henderson), 31 Jul 2012; 40, Hooper Lane, 23 May 2013; 30, Hooper Lane, 6 May 1999; 25, Price Lake (Watauga), 9 May 1978; 25, Jeffress Road in Henderson, 8 Sep 2004 (after Tropical Storm Frances).
Finding Tips The species is hard to miss near the coast in Aug and Sep.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-10], LeGrand[2022-02-08], LeGrand[2018-02-19]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.