Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



“Snowy Plover Nesting at Lake McConaughy in 2004 and 2005” from Nebraska Bird Review (December 2005) 73(4).


Copyright 2005 Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Used by permission.


The Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) is a small shore bird that upon casual observation resembles the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus). The most obvious differences are in the dark beak and legs of the Snowy Plover in contrast to the orange bill with the black tip and orange legs of the Piping Plover. The two also have strikingly different calls (pers. obs.). In Nebraska the Piping Plover can be found along the Missouri, Platte, Niobrara, Loup, and Elkhorn Rivers and the sandpits associated with those rivers (Haig and Plissner 1993). Piping Plovers are also common along the shore of Lake McConaughy (Peyton 2004). The Snowy Plover, in contrast, has been recorded from only a few locations in Nebraska, and the only reported areas for successful breeding within the state are Harlan County Reservoir (Silcock 2004) and Lake McConaughy, where breeding has been documented since 2000 (Silcock 2000, 2001b, and 2003).

In Nebraska the Snowy Plover was listed as Casual until the designation was changed to Regular in 2003 (NOU Records Committee 2004). This change is reflective of the increase in sightings reported in The Nebraska Bird Review and the documentation of nesting within the state.

The first report of nesting Snowy Plovers in Nebraska was in 1998 from the Missouri River near Santee, Nebraska (Silcock 200la). This nest was apparently lost. The second and third reports for the state, and the first reports of successful nesting, were of adults with young at Lake McConaughy in 2000 and 2001 (Silcock 2001b).

Adult birds were sighted at Lake McConaughy in 2002, but it wasn't until June 2003 that a Snowy Plover nest with eggs was located at Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2003a). Later that summer three additional broods were located, two of which eventually fledged chicks (Silcock 2003b). Thus, between 2000 and 2003, there was one nest with eggs and four broods of Snowy Plovers documented at Lake McConaughy.

Starting in 2004, the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District added the monitoring of nesting Snowy Plovers at Lake McConaughy to its annual Piping Plover monitoring plan. Presented here are the nesting data for Snowy Plovers at Lake McConaughy in 2004 and 2005.