Charadrius alexandrinus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Charadrius alexandrinus
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Common Name(s):
English Kentish Plover, Snowy Plover
French Gravelot à collier interrompu
Taxonomic Notes: Charadrius alexandrinus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) was split into two species, comprising the New World forms nivosus and occidentalis, and Old World alexandrinus, by Küpper et al. (2009), who make a case for the separation of nivosus and occidentalis from alexandrinus on the basis of genetic distance, leg and wing length, and chick plumage and calls, and this treatment has been adopted by AOU (2010). However, Küpper et al. do not discuss the fact that Old World (South Asian) seebohmi resembles the New World forms in lacking the rufous crown of breeding birds, and in possessing all-white lores. This would imply that seebohmi might conceivably be genetically closer to nivosus than it is to alexandrinus, or be interposed between the two (it is apparently shorter-legged than alexandrinus albeit not as much as nivosus), yet Küpper et al. (2009) did not sample this form. Consequently the case they present for the specific separation of nivosus/occidentalis cannot be accepted.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Armenia (Armenia); Aruba; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bahamas; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Barbados; Belgium; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; British Indian Ocean Territory; Brunei Darussalam; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Cambodia; Cameroon; Canada; Cape Verde; Cayman Islands; Chad; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Côte d'Ivoire; Croatia; Cuba; Curaçao; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Djibouti; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; Egypt; El Salvador; Eritrea; Estonia; Ethiopia; France; Gambia; Georgia; Germany; Ghana; Gibraltar; Greece; Guam; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Haiti; Honduras; Hong Kong; Hungary; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Italy; Jamaica; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Lebanon; Liberia; Libya; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Malaysia; Mali; Malta; Martinique; Mauritania; Mexico; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Montserrat; Morocco; Myanmar; Nepal; Netherlands; Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire); Nicaragua; Nigeria; Northern Mariana Islands; Oman; Pakistan; Palau; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Panama; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Puerto Rico; Qatar; Romania; Russian Federation; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia (Serbia); Sierra Leone; Singapore; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Slovakia; Slovenia; Somalia; South Sudan; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Taiwan, Province of China; Tajikistan; Thailand; Timor-Leste; Togo; Trinidad and Tobago; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Turks and Caicos Islands; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; United States (Georgia); Uzbekistan; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Viet Nam; Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S.; Western Sahara; Yemen
Australia; Belize; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Finland; Gabon; Guadeloupe; Ireland; Latvia; Luxembourg; Maldives; Niger; Norway; Seychelles; Uganda
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The global population is estimated to number c.300,000-460,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population estimates include: c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in China; c.100-10,000 breeding pairs, >c.10,000 individuals on migration and >c.10,000 wintering individuals in Taiwan; < c.100 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration in Korea; c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs in Japan and c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Behaviour Although some populations of this species are sedentary or only disperse short distances (del Hoyo et al. 1996), most inland and northern coastal populations (Hayman et al. 1986) are fully migratory and have distinct separate breeding and wintering ranges (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species occupies its breeding grounds chiefly from March to October (Hayman et al. 1986), dispersing from late-June immediately after the young fledge, with the southward migration peaking in September (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species nests solitarily or in loose semicolonial groups (Johnsgard 1981, Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), usually in densities of 0.5 to 20 pairs per hectare (exceptionally up to 100 pairs per hectare) (Johnsgard 1981), and sometimes in association with other species (e.g. Least Tern Sterna antillarum) (Powell and Collier 2000). Outside of the breeding season (Snow and Perrins 1998) the species feeds singly (MacKinnon and Phillipps 2000) or in small flocks of 20-30 individuals (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), and occasionally in larger flocks of up to 260 individuals (Urban et al. 1986), often roosting in large mixed-species flocks (Urban et al. 1986). Habitat During all seasons the species is predominantly coastal (Johnsgard 1981, Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) and is usually found on sand, silt or dry mud surfaces (del Hoyo et al. 1996), generally avoiding very exposed oceanic coastlines (Snow and Perrins 1998) and rocky or broken ground (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It also shows a preference for sparsely vegetated and sandy areas when breeding (Johnsgard 1981). Typical habitats include sandy, pebbly or muddy shores (Johnsgard 1981, Hayman et al. 1986, Grimmett et al. 1998), dunes (Johnsgard 1981), coastal lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1996), coastal marshes (China) (MacKinnon and Phillipps 2000), tropical shores of coral limestone (Johnsgard 1981), estuaries and tidal mudflats (Africa) (Urban et al. 1986). It is uncommon on freshwater, even when migrating (Hayman et al. 1986), but frequently occurs on inland habitats not far from the coast such as seasonal watercourses (del Hoyo et al. 1996), open flats near brackish or saline lakes (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), salt-pans (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Grimmett et al. 1998), salty steppes with scattered grasses (Johnsgard 1981), sandy deserts (Johnsgard 1981), pebbly or muddy plains (Johnsgard 1981), gravel pits (del Hoyo et al. 1996), and less frequently sandy riverbanks (Africa) (Johnsgard 1981, Urban et al. 1986, Grimmett et al. 1998), sandy pond margins (Grimmett et al. 1998) and barren reservoir shores (Johnsgard 1981, del Hoyo et al. 1996). Diet Its diet consists mainly of insects and their larvae (Johnsgard 1981, del Hoyo et al. 1996) (e.g. beetles and flies) (del Hoyo et al. 1996), gammarids (Johnsgard 1981), crabs (Urban et al. 1986), other crustaceans (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and brine shrimps (Johnsgard 1981), bivalve and univalve molluscs (Johnsgard 1981, del Hoyo et al. 1996), polychaete worms (Johnsgard 1981, del Hoyo et al. 1996), spiders (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and small pieces of seaweed (Urban et al. 1986). Breeding site The nest is a shallow scrape (del Hoyo et al. 1996) positioned near water on bare earth or in sparse vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1996), often on slightly raised ground (Snow and Perrins 1998) and partly sheltered by plants (Snow and Perrins 1998) or near conspicuous objects such as grass clumps or shrubs (Johnsgard 1981). The species nests in semicolonial groups, with nests spaced between 2 and 5 m (western Paleartic) (Snow and Perrins 1998) or more than 20 m apart (up to 80 m) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Management information Shallowly flooding a previously dry habitat at Owens Lake, California, was found to attract more breeding pairs to the area and had the effect of extending the nesting season by c.1 month (Ruhlen et al. 2006). At Batiquitos Lagoon, California, creating new nesting areas from dredging spoils (e.g. coarse-grained sand and shell fragments) attracted more breeding pairs and non-breeding individuals, possibly because the new areas were covered with less debris and a smaller amount of tall vegetation than older sites (Powell and Collier 2000). In the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma, there is evidence that nests adjacent to herbaceous and shrub vegetation suffer significantly lower losses to flooding but significantly higher losses to mammalian predation than those 500 or 1,000 m away (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996). In the same area artificial nest ridges (made by ploughing) and nest mounds constructed from existing materials (gravel, sand and clay) were found not to reduce nest flooding (Koenen et al. 1996a). Predator exclusion experiments from nesting areas using electric fences in the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma (Koenen et al. 1996a) and in Monterey Bay, California were unsuccessful in increasing the number of chicks fledged per male (Neuman et al. 2004) or significantly reducing annual egg predation (this was probably still limited by avian predation) (Koenen et al. 1996a), although in Monterey Bay the hatching success of nests within the exclosure did increase (Neuman et al. 2004) and the overall nesting success was higher for breeding pairs within the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge exclosures (Koenen et al. 1996a). At Monterey Bay the predator exclosures were also not successful in increasing adult breeding numbers, and the mortality of incubating adults was actually higher within the enclosures than outside them (Neuman et al. 2004). On beaches in Santa Barbara, California, erecting protective barriers to direct tourist foot-traffic away from sections of upper beach was found to decrease disturbance of the species by more than half and attracted increased numbers of breeding pairs, although the distribution of the species on the beach contracted to within the protected area (Lafferty et al. 2006).
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is threatened by the disturbance of coastal habitats (e.g. tourists trampling nests and disturbing roosts on beaches) (Lafferty et al. 2006). It is also threatened by the degradation and loss of wetland habitat through environmental pollution (Barter 2006, Kelin and Qiang 2006), land reclamation (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Barter 2006), declining river flows (Barter 2006, Kelin and Qiang 2006) (from water abstraction), unsustainable harvesting of benthic fauna (Barter 2006, Kelin and Qiang 2006), urbanisation (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and a reduction in the amount of sediment being carried into coastal areas by rivers (Barter 2006). The species is susceptible to avian botulism, so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the disease (Blaker 1967).

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Charadrius alexandrinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. <>. Downloaded on 23 July 2014.
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