Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly
to threats, management, and conservation activities include Piping Plover, Killdeer, Spotted
Sandpiper, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, and Least Tern.
Distribution: Snowy Plovers breed along the West and Gulf coasts, throughout much of
Nevada, southern Washington, northern Utah, southeastern Kansas, the Oklahoma and Texas
panhandles, and southeastern New Mexico. Within the Central Shortgrass Prairie in Colorado,
they breed on the shores of reservoirs near the Arkansas River between La Junta and Lamar.
Habitat Requirements: Snowy Plovers nest on sandy beaches or alkaline flats with little or no
vegetation; nests are located within 150 m (500 ft) of water.
Ecology: Snowy Plovers arrive in Colorado in mid April. They initiate nests as early as mid
April and as late as early July; the later dates are probably renesting attempts after failed nests
rather than second clutches after successful nests. Most birds have left the state by the end of
September. The diet consists of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates.
Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Snowy Plovers' nest sites and
breeding success are sensitive to water levels, which are subject to management for irrigation and
other uses. Integrate Snowy Plover nesting habitat needs into reservoir management plans.
Nest depredation hampers productivity, but experimental predator exclosures failed to improve
nest success rates, probably because they did not exclude smaller predators such as snakes and
rodents. Humans and domestic animals can destroy nests. Establish area closures with fences
and signs to restrict access within 150 m (500 ft) of known nest sites.
Status and Reasons for Concern: This species has a high conservation need locally and
throughout its range; fewer than 100 pairs nest in Colorado. This species is on the national Watch
List, indicating a high conservation need throughout its range. Due to its small numbers and
limited range, this species is not monitored by the BBS within Physiographic Area 36. This
species is monitored by CDOW.
Biological Objective: Increase the species' distribution and abundance, based on results of the
CDOW or other monitoring programs.
Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992; Estelle and Mabee 1994, 1995; Kingery 1998;
Page et al. 1995.