Friday, 6 February 2015

B.O.T.D. Black-Bellied Plover

B.O.T.D. Feb 6, 2015

Black-Bellied Plover (Pluvialis squantarola)

For a shy bird, the black-bellied plover has managed to acquire an impressive collection of nicknames: beetle-head, bottle-head, hollow-head and grump area a few unflattering examples. But only black-breast does any real justice to this trim, handsome bird, whose habit of migrating in hard-to-hit flocks may be all that has kept hunters from blasting them to extinction.

The largest of North America's plovers, it breeds in the high Arctic and is an expert at foraging over wet sands exposed by the ebbing tide. Marine worms are a favourite delicacy, but the black-bellied plover also finds ample sustenance in meadows, salt marshes, and recently plowed fields. Moving over the ground in short, staccato runs of four or five yards, it strikes fast, eats quickly, and then scans the landscape for possible attackers.

Of the roughly 65 species of plovers found worldwide, this is surely the most cosmopolitan, wintering in places as far-flung as South Africa, India, Australia, Chile, and Argentina. But North Americans can also get a good look at plover flocks each May as the black-bellies migrate up the Mississippi Valley and both seacoasts on their way to the remote Arctic nesting grounds where they will bring forth yet another generation.