Charadrius nivosus nivosus
Status: Rare regular spring visitor central, rare casual elsewhere. Rare regular breeder northeast, rare casual southcentral, and Lake McConaughy, Keith Co. Rare casual summer visitor central and west. Rare casual fall migrant statewide.
Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM6114, 16 May 1903 Lincoln, Lancaster Co.
Taxonomy: Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus has been traditionally treated as a single species with six subspecies worldwide. In 2010 however, New World populations were split as Snowy Plover, C. nivosus, with two subspecies, nivosus of North America and occidentalis of western South America (Kupper et al 2009, Chesser et al 2011). Nebraska birds are nivosus.
Spring: Mar 28, Apr 3, 6 <<<>>> May 28, 28, 30
There are later records 1 Jun 2019 Buffalo Co and 3 Jun 2009 on the lower Platte River about two miles upstream from the Schuyler, Colfax Co Highway 15 bridge.
This species primarily occurs in spring and almost all reports during this season are in May, suggesting a pattern of dispersal or prospecting away from regular breeding sites; Snowy Plovers breed regularly as close as central Kansas (Thompson et al 2011). Most sightings in Nebraska are relatively brief (<3 days) and are at sites that do not possess the full complement of conditions suitable for nesting (e.g., Rainwater Basin wetlands). Occasionally, though, prospecting birds locate suitable nesting habitat, find mates and subsequently breed (see summer).
Increased birding activity in the Rainwater Basin during the 1990s and 2000s has produced most of the documented records, usually of single individuals; Jorgensen (2012) and Dinsmore (1996) together listed 35 records there 22 Apr-30 May.
Easterly reports are 28 Mar 1976 Lancaster Co, 3 Apr 1993 Cass Co, 9 May 1998 near Niobrara, Knox Co (Brogie 1999), early to mid-May 2011 Cedar Co, and 16 May 1903 Lancaster Co (specimen cited above), while westerly reports are 29 Apr 2001 Swanson Reservoir, Hitchcock Co, 12 May 2011 Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co, 21 May 1980 Sioux Co, 26 May 1990 Scotts Bluff Co (Grenon 1991), and 28 May 1976 Dawes Co (Rosche 1982).
Summer: Occurrence in summer in Nebraska is peripheral, but there are a number of records, most at Lake McConaughy during periods of low water levels in the early 2000s, and from the northeast in the upper reaches of Lewis and Clark Lake and along the Gavin’s Point reach of the Missouri River. There are also a few records from the central Platte River Valley and Harlan Co Reservoir, Harlan Co.
The first recorded breeding was in northeastern Nebraska. A nest with three eggs, attended by two adults, was found adjacent to the Missouri River near Santee, Knox Co 10 Jun 1998, but later destroyed by high water (Mollhoff 2001). A pair was with breeding Piping Plovers near Niobrara Jun 1999, but no nest was found (Mollhoff 2001), and a single bird was below Gavin’s Point Dam May 2000 (Mollhoff 2001). In the years since, nesting Snowy Plovers have been found on man-made sandbars near the Niobrara River delta; as many as 10 nests have been located there 2008-2011 (Hunt et al 2013) and 2010-2019 (Galen Jons, pers. comm.). Single three-egg nests were initiated 18-22 Jun within 1800 feet of each other on the same Niobrara River delta sandbar in the three years 2016-2018 (Galen Jons, pers. comm.), suggestng the same breeding pair was involved. Productivity has been comparable to that of Snowy Plovers elsewhere in the North American breeding range, with inundation and predation the main threats (Hunt et al 2013).
Summer reports began at Lake McConaughy during periods of low water and exposed sandy beaches in the early 1990s: 3-4 Jun 1991 (Peyton 1991), 4 Jun-22 Jul 1992 (Rosche 1994), and 1 Jun 1993 (Rosche 1994). Nesting was first noted in 2000, when an adult with a small chick was on the south shore 3 Jul 2000; an adult had been there two weeks earlier. An adult female with three young about three weeks old was seen on the south shore 10 Aug 2001, where a female had been found 21 Jul. In 2002, 1-2 were present 12 Jun-6 Aug, but nesting was not observed. Beginning in 2003, nests were monitored by Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District; two males and a female and a nest containing three eggs were found on the north shore 16 May 2003 and two pairs were at the same location with four juveniles present 21 Jul. Nesting of Snowy Plovers at Lake McConaughy in 2004 and 2005 was summarized by Peyton and Wilson (2005). For those two years, nine nests and 19 broods were monitored, with six of the nests hatching at least one young and 32 of 35 chicks fledging. During the two years 2004 and 2005, first sightings of adults were 28 May and 24 May respectively, first nests 6 Jun and 24 May, and first fledging 15 Jul and 20 Jul (Peyton and Wilson 2005). An adult male and two juveniles were found 29-30 Jul 2006. In 2007, four nests were located and nine chicks fledged even though water levels rose during the year (Peyton and Wilson 2007). Only two were present there 9 Jun 2008 and only one nest was located that year (Peyton and Wilson 2008). Two of the eggs hatched but the fate of the chicks was not determined (Peyton and Wilson 2008). In 2013 water levels were again relatively low; four adults and one brood were present during the season (Stephen J. Dinsmore, pers. comm.). In 2015 and 2016, Snowy Plovers were observed at Lake McConaughy but no nests were located (Peyton and Wilson 2016). Since 2004, Snowy Plovers are known to have nested in seven years and a total of 29 nests and 22 fledged chicks have been observed (Zorn and Wilson 2016).
While Harlan Co Reservoir was experiencing reduced water levels due to drought, breeding may have occurred in 2003, when 1-2 juveniles were there 2-4 Aug; in 2004, three pairs and a lone male and a nest with three eggs were found 12 May 2004 and on 20 Jun two pairs, each with a “very fresh brood”, were found.
Breeding behavior has been reported at three locations in the Central Platte River Valley. The Dinan Memorial Tract, a mechanically-cleared and modified area along the Platte River in eastern Buffalo Co, hosted two nests in 2007, with one young fledged; a pair of Snowy Plovers and a nest were observed in both 2008 and 2009 with chicks fledged there during 2009, and in 2010, three adults were found but no nests were located (Baasch 2010, 2011). Ostrom et al (2020) documented the presence of up to four 14-23 May 2019 at a site about 10 mi southwest of Grand Island, Hall Co. Construction of nest scrapes and copulation were observed 23 May, but rising water levels inundated the site by 27 May (Ostrom et al 2020). A previously unreported nesting occurred near Newark, Kearney Co where a pair brooded a nest with three eggs 6 Jun-3 Jul 2019 about two km north of the main channel at a sandpit site; the attempt was “ultimately unsuccessful” however (K. Mohlman, fide Ostrom et al 2020).
Four juveniles accompanied by an adult at a drawn-down Swanson Reservoir, Hitchcock Co on the rather late date of 25 Aug 2014 may have been the result of local breeding; these birds were last seen 3 Sep.
There are several additional records in summer without evidence of nesting. Sightings at Tamora WPA, Seward Co 18 May and 15 Jun 2014 were likely the same bird although another was at Marsh Duck WMA, York Co 17-21 Jun, an alternate adult was at Merritt Reservoir, Cherry Co 5 Jun 2011, an adult was photographed on the Loup River in Nance County 19 June and 11 July (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2017), 1-2 were at Funk WPA, Phelps Co 20-29 Jun 1974 (Bliese 1975), one was at Funk WPA, Phelps Co 23 Jun 1997 (Brogie 1998), a worn adult was in Clay Co 3 Jul 2015, and two Snowy Plovers were observed 25 Jul 1983 in Buffalo Co (Lingle and Labedz 1984).
Fall: There are seven reports, all in the period 4 Aug-21 Sep. The Swanson Reservoir sightings are discussed above (see Summer).
4 Aug 2007 photographed Springer WPA, Hamilton Co (Jorgensen 2012)
7 Aug 1977 Lake McConaughy (Rosche 1994)
10 Aug 1952 Dawson Co (Wycoff 1953)
13-19 Aug 1972 Lancaster Co (Hoffman 1973)
2 Sep 1932 Lancaster Co (Hudson 1933)
21 Sep 2014 North Platte SL, Lincoln Co (Silcock 2014).
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SL: Sewage Lagoons
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)
Photograph of a Snowy Plover at Smith Waterfowl Production Area, Clay Co 2 May 2019 by Joel G. Jorgensen.
Baasch, D.M. 2010. Platte River Recovery Implementation Program: 2008–2009 Interior Least Tern and Piping Plover monitoring and research report for the central Platte River, Nebraska. Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, Kearney, Nebraska, USA.
Baasch, D.M. 2011. 2010 Interior least tern and Piping plover Monitoring and Research Report for the Central Platte River, Nebraska. Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, Kearney, Nebraska, USA.
Bliese, J.C.W. 1975. Snowy Plovers. NBR 43: 43.
Brogie, M.A. 1998. 1997 (Ninth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 66: 147-159.
Brogie, M.A. 1999. 1998 (Tenth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 67: 141-152.
Chesser, R.T., K.J. Burns, C. Cicero, J.L. Dunn, A.W. Kratter, I.J. Lovette, P.C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen, Jr., J.D. Rising, D.F. Stotz, and K. Winker. 2017. Fifty-eighth supplement to the American Ornithological Society’s Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 134: 751-773.
Dinsmore, S.J. 1996. Snowy Plovers in the Rainwater Basin. NBR 64: 71.
Grenon, A.G. 1991. 1991 (Fourth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 59: 150-155.
Hoffman, T.A. 1973. Snowy Plover. NBR 41: 19-20.
Hudson, G.E. 1933. The Snowy Plover occurs again in Nebraska. NBR 1: 31.
Hunt, K.L., N. Taygan, D.H. Catlin, J.H. Felio, and J.D. Fraser. 2013. Demography of Snowy Plovers (Charadrius nivosus) on the Missouri River. Waterbirds 36: 220-224.
Jorgensen, J.G. 2012. Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
Kupper, C., J. Augustin, A. Kosztolanyi, T. Burke, J. Figuerola, J. and T. Szekely, T. 2009. Kentish versus Snowy Plover: phenotypic and genetic analyses of Charadrius alexandrinus reveal divergence of Eurasian and American subspecies. Auk 126: 839–852.
Lingle, G.R., and T.E. Labedz. 1984. An exceptional “fall” migration of shorebirds along the Big Bend Reach of the Platte River. NBR 52: 70-71.
Ostrom, B.L., A.J. Caven, J.M. Malzahn, and A. Vogel. 2020. Snowy Plover Activity in the Central Platte River Valley in May 2019. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 40: 24-29. doi: 10.32873/unl.dc.tnas.40.4.
Peyton, M.M. 1991. Snowy Plover sighting. NBR 59: 98.
Peyton, M.M., and G.T. Wilson. 2005. Snowy Plover nesting at Lake McConaughy in 2004 and 2005. NBR 73: 154-156.
Peyton, M.M. and G.T. Wilson. 2007. Least Tern and Piping Plover nesting monitoring report 2007. Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, Holdrege, Nebraska, USA.
Peyton, M.M. and G.T. Wilson. 2008. Least Tern and Piping Plover nesting monitoring report 2008. Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, Holdrege, Nebraska, USA.
Peyton, M.M., and G.T. Wilson. 2016. Least Tern and Piping Plover Nest Monitoring Final Report 2015. Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, Holdrege, Nebraska, USA.
Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.
Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska. Published by the author, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.
Silcock, W.R. 2014. Fall Field Report, August-November 2014. NBR 82: 150-181.
Thompson, M.C., C.A. Ely, B. Gress, C. Otte, S.T. Patti, D. Seibel, and E.A. Young. 2011. Birds of Kansas. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.
Wycoff, R.S. 1953. Snowy Plover. NBR 21: 40.
Zorn, D.J., and G.T. Wilson. 2016. Least Tern and Piping Plover Nest Monitoring Final Report 2016. Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, Holdrege, Nebraska, USA.
Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2020. Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org
Birds of Nebraska – Online
Updated 6 Aug 2020