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Mountain Plover is an endemic breeder to the vast shortgrass prairies east of the High Plains. It breeds primarily east of the Rocky Mountains from n. New Mexico and nw. Texas north to s. Alberta, sw. Saskatchewan, and w. Montana. It winters from central California to n. Baja California, sparingly in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and n. Mexico (map). It is casual in Oregon and Washington and and extremely rare vagrant east of Texas; the lone Massachusetts occurrence is the most northeasterly record.
Fig. 1. Specimen of the Mountain Plover collected at Chatham 28 Oct 1916 (ph. C. Kirdahy – Museum of Science)
STATUS IN MASSACHUSETTS: Accidental fall vagrant (1 record). Map and summary (eBird).
One HY male collected 28 October 1916, Chatham, Barnstable, †A.E. Crowell, ph. of specimen by C. Kirdahy; MARC #1916-01; See Brooks (1917) for more information.
The single occurrence of this species was collected from a flock of Black-bellied Plovers (Pluvialis squatorola) and is discussed by Brooks (1917). It is now a live-mounted specimen at the Boston Museum of Science (BMS); the Committee voted upon photos of the specimen.
Knopf and Wunder 2006) has probably greatly reduced the likelihood of a repeat appearance.
STATUS IN THE EAST: There are just a handful of records east of Texas: singles photographed at Chincoteague NWR., Accomack, VA, 16-17 Oct 1976 (Rottenborn and Brinkley 2007) and one photographed at Huntington Beach SP, SC, 10 Oct 2007 are the closest to Massachusetts. Other records from Mississippi (Grenada Lake), Alabama (Gulf Shores), and Florida (6 records; Stevenson and Anderson 1994) represent the only other records from the East, although there are sight reports from Georgia. Recently, one was photographed in Elkart Co., IN, 22 Aug 2002 (NAB 57:57). Given that the species may have declined by as much as 67% between 1966 and 1993 (Knopf and Wunder 2006), additional records have become even more unlikely.
IDENTIFICATION NOTES: The two regular species of Pluvialis in Massachusetts, Black-bellied and American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica), are the most similar to Mountain Plover. Mountain Plover is smaller, plainer, and lacks any spangling or spotting on the upperparts, but beware of exceptionally worn (first-summer) Pluvialis in August and September. Any record of Mountain Plover should carefully consider certain species of Eurasian plovers, such as Lesser Sand-Plover (Charadrius mongolus), Oriental Plover (Charadrius veredus), Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus), and possibly others, all of which can appear quite plain in immature or basic plumages. Note that Oriental Plover has been collected in w. Greenland (23 May 1948; Boertmann 1994) and Eurasian Dotterel has been recorded in Bermuda (Sep; Amos 1991). Hayman et al. (1986) provide identification information on these species and all of the world’s shorebirds.
Amos, E.J.R. 1991. A guide to the Birds of Bermuda. Self-published.
Boertmann, D. 1994. Meddelelser om Grønland [An annotated list of the birds of Greenland]. Bioscience 38:1-62.
Brooks, W.S. 1917. A new record for New England. Auk 34:86.
Knopf, Fritz L. and M. B. Wunder. 2006. Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/211
Rottenborn, S.C. and E.S. Brinkley. 2007. Virginia’s Birdlife: An Annotated Checklist. 4th ed., Virginia Aviafauna No. 7.Virginia Society of Ornithology.
Stevenson, H.M. and B.H. Anderson. 1994. The Birdlife of Florida. Univ. Press of Florida.
Author: Marshall J. Iliff