Roughly 5000 Black-bellied Plovers overwinter in the Fraser River Delta each year. The largest plover in North America, these birds tend to congregate in large mixed flocks of other shorebirds. This action coupled with their quick alarm calls have enabled their population to prevail when other birds weren’t so lucky.
In Delta, Black-bellied Plovers spend their days probing for invertebrates in bare or Winter Cover Crop fields. Those fields with short cover and with recent fertilization or Laser Levelling are usually their first choice.
Despite their name, when we see Black-bellied Plovers along our winter coasts, they lack their black face and belly and instead take a more inconspicuous garb. Their bellies are a light grey colour which morphs into a lightly mottled breast, a wispy white eyebrow forms and their large rounded cap turns a mottled grey-brown.
Photo by Dan Irizarry
Their backs are barred grey and black and in flight they have a bold white wing stripe. Their legs are black, their rump white, and their bill is large, though short and heavy.
Though difficult to see, they are the only American plover to have a hind toe on their foot. They are quick and can often be seen scurrying along a shoreline or farm field with quick halts to peck the ground before continuing off running again. When they chatter amongst themselves or send their alarm calls they are in the form of high-pitched whistles or a loud “PLEEooee”.