Species Profile

Mountain Plover

Scientific Name: Charadrius montanus
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: Alberta, Saskatchewan
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: December 2021
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: D1
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This shorebird of shortgrass prairies reaches the northern limits of its breeding distribution in extreme southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. It has become exceedingly rare in Canada, with no observations since 2012, although small numbers may persist in areas with little survey effort. Historically, the population is believed to have declined primarily as a result of habitat loss from agricultural intensification and fire suppression. Temperature extremes and changes to habitat related to climate change are also of concern. Immigration from outside Canada is unlikely, because the nearest potential source population in Montana is also small and declining.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 1987. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2000, November 2009, and December 2021.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Mountain Plover

Mountain Plover Photo 1



The Mountain Plover is a medium-sized bird with a buff-grey back and wings and whitish underparts that are washed with buff. Breeding birds have a white forehead, black on top of the head and thin black eyeline. Non-breeding birds and juveniles lack the black markings on the head and are buffier on their undersides. The species’ call is a distinctive low harsh krrip.


Distribution and Population

The species breeds in the western Great Plains, from southern Canada to Texas. The winter range is primarily in California but the species also winters in northern Mexico, southern Arizona and southern Texas. In Canada, the Mountain Plover breeds in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan; birds in these two areas are considered two sub-populations of the species. The North American range has contracted from earlier times, especially along its eastern edge. In fact, the Breeding Bird Survey revealed that the decline in this species from the 1960s to the early 1990s was larger than that of any other endemic grassland bird (bird species restricted to grasslands). Scientific survey data are lacking, but during the last two decades there have probably been less than 50 adult Mountain Plovers in Canada. In the Alberta sub-population, a maximum of 11 adults was recorded in 1981, compared with two adults in 1985.



Mountain Plovers inhabit flat areas with short vegetation (usually less than 10 centimeters high) and bare ground. Grazing animals and Black-tailed Prairie Dogs play important roles in keeping the habitat suitable for the species. Mountain Plovers prefer heavily grazed grassland, but areas with light grazing that have been burned recently can provide suitable habitat for the birds. Cultivated fields are also used for nesting, especially in the southern part of the North American range. In Canada, the bird usually nests in grazed, or recently burned, areas of native mixed grassland. As a result of various factors, both historical and more recent, Mountain Plover habitat has become both localized and restricted in size.



Birds of this species have a high degree of site fidelity, meaning that they usually return to the same general area to nest. If old sites are no longer suitable, the birds find new habitat. On the Canadian breeding grounds, nesting commences in May. The female lays a clutch of three eggs in a depression on the ground. To increase nesting success, the female often leaves the male to incubate the eggs while she lays a second clutch. Eggs hatch in about 1 month and the young leave the nest at about 35 days. Nesting success (or fledging rates) is quite low and ranges from one chick for each nest to one chick for three nests. In at least one area, mountain plover nesting success varies among years. It has been suggested that drought conditions lead to low fledging rates, probably because predation rates are higher when food is in short supply. From mid/late July to November, the birds are found in family groups or post-breeding flocks across their breeding grounds. The Mountain Plover is considered to be highly mobile and to have the potential to disperse widely.



The decline in the continental population of Mountain Plovers is attributed to the conversion of native grassland to cropland, agricultural practices, management of domestic livestock, decline of native herbivores, and possibly pesticides. In Canada, the major threat is range management practices, which discourage heavily grazed grassland and thereby restrict suitable breeding habitat. The resulting small, isolated breeding populations are vulnerable to natural events such as weather extremes and predation.



Federal Protection

The Mountain Plover is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Mountain Plover is protected by the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, or collect adults, young, and eggs. This species occurs in Grasslands National Park where it is protected under the Canada National Parks Act. It is also protected by the Alberta Wildlife Act.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date The recovery team is working to maintain the naturally small breeding population of Mountain Plovers in Canada and increase awareness of their needs and possible threats. Since the Mountain Plover is peripherally located in southern regions of Alberta and Saskatchewan, recovery efforts have not proven to be worthwhile to date. Thus the main recovery goal is to maintain its recent distribution and abundance in Canada. Short-term success for Mountain Plover recovery can be gauged by the uncovering of new breeding sites, identifying threats to the species and its habitat, and promoting stewardship at those sites. Long term successes will be established through the maintenance of breeding Mountain Plover in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Unfortunately, little is known about this species and its population trends at this point. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Researchers propose to conduct systematic surveys for breeding Mountain Plovers once the birds have arrived from their over-wintering sites, and again during the nesting season. If the birds are found nesting, the size of the breeding population, the habitat use, and the nesting success is documented. Using existing databases, landscape information is being collected to identify habitat conditions and priority areas in need of conservation or additional surveys. Summary of Recovery Activities Specific, targeted searches are being conducted for the Mountain Plover because our knowledge of the abundance and distribution of this rare, cryptic species is very limited with only 44 birds having been recorded in Canada in the last 125 years. A habitat stewardship program, MULTISAR, is implementing a process to provide appropriate habitat management on critical areas of the landscape and emphasizes voluntary stewardship activities to achieve conservation of species at risk, including the Mountain Plover. Their main goals are to conserve and enhance species habitat and native grassland ecosystems and to conserve and increase key areas of grassland ecosystems of the Milk River Basin in Alberta. Outreach programs are being established with the intention of targeting individual landowners and encouraging them to secure, enhance, and restore habitats in the prairies. Areas in need of habitat conservation are currently being identified. URLs Mountain Plover Habitat and Population Surveys in Alberta, 2001:http://www3.gov.ab.ca/srd/fw/speciesatrisk/pdf/SAR_37.pdf MULTISAR habitat stewardship program:http://www.multisar-milkriverbasin.com/


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

15 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

COSEWIC Status Reports

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment Summary and Status Report: Mountain Plover Charadrius montanus (2010-09-03)

    Assessment Summary – November 2009 Common name Mountain Plover Scientific nameCharadrius montanus Status Endangered Reason for designationThis species is a rare bird of the Canadian prairies which is found in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The population numbers less than 250 individuals with a maximum of 11 individuals counted in one season in Canada. The species is threatened by continuing conversion of native grasslands to croplands, agricultural practices and the management of domestic livestock. The species is of particular concern in much of its range in the United States, limiting future rescue. Occurrence Alberta, Saskatchewan Status history Designated Endangered in April 1987. Status re–examined and confirmed November 2000 and in November 2009.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Mountain Plover (2010-12-02)

    This species is a rare bird of the Canadian prairies which is found in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The population numbers less than 250 individuals with a maximum of 11 individuals counted in one season in Canada. The species is threatened by continuing conversion of native grasslands to croplands, agricultural practices and the management of domestic livestock. The species is of particular concern in much of its range in the United States, limiting future rescue.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) in Canada (2006-10-25)

    The Mountain Plover is a migratory bird protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and is under the management jurisdiction of the federal government. The Mountain Plover was listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in June 2003. SARA (Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered, or threatened species. The Canadian Wildlife Service – Prairie and Northern Region, Environment Canada, led the development of this recovery strategy, in cooperation and consultation with Saskatchewan Environment, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, the Parks Canada Agency, and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. The strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39–41).

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for Multiple Species at Risk in Southwestern Saskatchewan: South of the Divide (2017-11-20)

    The Minister of Environment is the competent minister under SARA for the recovery of the species on lands covered by this action plan and has prepared it to partially implement the associated recovery strategies, as per section 49 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Government of Saskatchewan (Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Water Security Agency, Ministry of the Economy) and with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Parks Canada Agency.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Grasslands National Park of Canada (2016-07-05)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Grasslands National Park of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Grasslands National Park of Canada (GNP). The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at GNP.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010-09-03)

    Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.

Permits and Related Agreements

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – November 2010 (2010-12-02)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 4, 2011 for species undergoing normal consultations and by February 4, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Residence Description

  • Residence Description - Mountain Plover (2005-06-21)

    The following is a description of residence for the Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus), created for the purposes of increasing public awareness and aiding enforcement of the above prohibition. As a migratory bird protected under the MBCA, the Mountain Plover is under federal jurisdiction and thus the residence prohibition is in effect on all lands where the species occurs. Mountain Plovers are known to have one type of residence - the nest. Preface updated on May 17, 2017.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

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