Migratory Birds - Mountain Plover
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Species Information


Mountain Plover

The mountain plover (Charadrius montanus) is a migratory bird slightly smaller than an American robin and is native to short-grass prairie and shrub-steppe landscapes. It breeds in the western Great Plains and Rocky Mountain States from the Canadian border to northern Mexico. Within the United States, most breeding occurs in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wyoming; fewer breeding birds occur in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

Mountain plover winter mostly in California, southern Arizona, Texas and Mexico. While California’s Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Imperial Valleys support many wintering mountain plover, relatively little is known about their winter range use in other areas. Unlike other plovers, mountain plover are not found near water, and will only inhabit areas with sparse vegetation or bare ground.

The mountain plover is light brown above, with a lighter-colored breast, but lacks the contrasting dark breastbelt common to many other plovers. During the breeding season, it has a white forehead and a dark line between the beak and eye which contrasts with the dark crown.

Recent Actions May 11, 2011: After a thorough review of all available scientific and commercial information, the Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the mountain plover is not threatened or endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

We originally proposed to list the mountain plover as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in February 1999 and amended that proposal in December 2002. Subsequently, we withdrew the listing proposal in September 2003 based on the conclusion that information available at that time did not indicate the threats to the mountain plover and its habitat were likely to endanger the species in the foreseeable future. In June 2010, we reinstated the 2002 proposed rule to list the mountain plover as a threatened species and invited public comments. The current finding is based on a thorough review of all information and comments received regarding the reinstated proposal.

We estimate the current mountain plover breeding population to be over 20,000 birds, more than double the estimate cited in our 2002 proposal. An analysis of the potential threats to the mountain plover does not indicate the species is in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

The mountain plover’s geographically widespread breeding and wintering distribution and ability to use a variety of habitats contribute to its security. During breeding, mountain plover use short- and mixed-grass prairie, prairie dog colonies, agricultural lands, and semi-desert habitats. Threats affecting one habitat type may not appreciably affect others or substantially increase the mountain plover’s vulnerability to extinction. Mountain plover have proven to be adaptable to many human activities, using crop fields for breeding and wintering, and often benefitting from cattle grazing. We conclude that human land use changes, alone or in combination with climate change, are not likely to result in significant population-level impacts to the mountain plover in the foreseeable future.

Additional Species Resources

•  Mountain Plover Conservation Plan
•  Mountain Plover Species Profile
•  Federal Register Notice 5/11/11 - Withdrawal of the Proposed Rule to List the Mountain Plover as Threatened
•  5/11/11 Fish and Wildlife Service Determines the Mountain Plover Does Not Warrant Protection Under the Endangered Species Act
•  References Cited

Priority Species

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Important Information

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: January 05, 2021
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