Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plovers winter commonly along San Diego's beaches. "Winter" is a relative term. For many shorebirds "winter" could mean all but 6 weeks in "summer,"--May 15 to June 15--when adults rush to the Arctic tundra to breed, then rush back. And some non-breeding birds remain locally all summer.

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plovers habitualize themselves to people on beaches. Thus it is relatively easy to get good, close photos of these birds. One of the highest concentrations where approach is easy, is at Crown Point Park on Mission Bay. Several hundred plovers hang out on the sand beaches, often with other shorebirds including Red Knots, Short-billed Dowitchers, Dunlins, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Marbled Godwits, and Willets. Other birds winter birds flocking together on the beach there includes Royal Terns and Black Skimmers.

These photos, however, came from the mouth of the Tijuana River estuary, on February 18, 2018.

Black-bellied Plover

The striking black underparts of adults is attained in April and May and remains to September. I don't see this breeding plumage often in southern California--even in late spring. I'm just guessing, but it may be that primarily only first-year birds winter this far south? Such first-year birds (certainly top photo) remain in the plumages shown here all summer, similar to gray winter adults, but with some black feathers showing on the wing coverts (lower photo). Adults should complete molt into breeding plumage (a considerable energy budget) before migrating north (also a considerable energy budget). They won't molt and migrate at the same time--it takes too much energy. Or, maybe I just haven't been on the beach at the right time in spring.

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