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.
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: http://www.aerc.eu/DOCS/Bird_taxa_of _the_WP15.xls.
AOU. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 1994. The taxonomy and species of birds of Australia and its territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, Melbourne.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: http://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/SACCBaseline.html.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Stotz, D. F.; Fitzpatrick, J. W.; Parker, T. A.; Moskovits, D. K. 1996. Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
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).Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006). This species has had stable population trends over the last 40 years in North America (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007) Note, however, that these surveys cover less than 50% of the species's range in North America.EcologyBehaviour
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.
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.
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).
Johnsgard, P. A. 1981. The plovers, sandpipers and snipes of the world. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, U.S.A. and London.
Hayman, P.; Marchant, J.; Prater, A. J. 1986. Shorebirds. Croom Helm, London.
Urban, E. K.; Fry, C. H.; Keith, S. 1986. The birds of Africa vol. II. Academic Press, London.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Grimmett, R.; Inskipp, C.; Inskipp, T. 1998. Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Christopher Helm, London.
MacKinnon, J.; Phillips, K. 2000. A field guide to the birds of China. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Ruhler, T. D.; Page, G. W.; Stenzel, L. 2006. Effects of a changing environment on nesting snowy plovers at Owens Lake, California. Western Birds 37(3): 126-138.
Barter, M. A. 2006. The Yellow Sea - a vitally important staging region for migratory shorebirds. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 663-667. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.
Blaker, D. 1967. An outbreak of Botulinus poisoning among waterbirds. Ostrich 38(2): 144-147.
Kelin, C.; Qiang, X. 2006. Conserving migratory shorebirds in the Yellow Sea region. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 319. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh, UK.
Koenen, M. T.; Leslie, D. M., Jr.; Gregory, M. 1996. Habitat changes and success of artificial nests on an alkaline flat. Wilson Bulletin 108(2): 292-301.
Koenen, M. T.; Utych, R. B.; Leslie, D. M., Jr. 1996. Methods used to improve Least Tern and Snowy Plover nesting success on alkaline flats. Journal of Field Ornithology 67(2): 281-291.
Lafferty, K. D.; Goodman, D.; Sandoval, C. P. 2006. Restoration of breeding by snowy plovers following protection from disturbance. Biodiversity and Conservation 15: 2217-2230.
Neuman, K. K.; Page, G. W.; Stenzel, L. E.; Warriner, J. C.; Warriner, J. S. 2004. Effect of Mammalian Predator Management on Snowy Plover Breeding Success. Waterbirds 27(3): 257-376.
Powell, A. N.; Collier, C. L. 2000. Habitat use and reproductive success of Western Snowy Plovers at new nesting areas created for California Least Terns. Journal of Wildlife Management 64(1): 24-33.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)
Hear sounds for this species from xeno-canto, the community database of shared bird sounds from around the world.
View photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Charadrius alexandrinus. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 20/06/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 20/06/2013.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.
Additional resources for this species