Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
AMERICAN RING PLOVER.
CHARADRIUS SEMIPALMATUS, Bonap.
PLATE CCCXX.--MALE AND YOUNG.
I have had great pleasure in observing the migrations of this species,
particularly in early spring, when great numbers enter the southern portions of
the United States, on their way northward, where it is now well known to breed.
At that period, whatever attempts you may make to prevent their progress, they
always endeavour to advance eastward; whereas in early autumn, they will rove in
any direction, as if perfectly aware that the task imposed upon them by Nature
having been accomplished, they may enjoy their leisure. Those which pass the
winter within the limits of the Union, are mostly found along the shores of
South Carolina, Georgia, the Floridas, and as far south as the mouths of the
Mississippi; there being no doubt that many remain on the coasts of the Gulf of
Mexico, as I have found some there early in spring, before observing those which
I knew by their manners to be recently arrived. In the course of my late visit
to Texas, I found them on Galveston Bay, where I observed some arriving from the
During their polar migration, they proceed rather swiftly, for although
they appear to touch at every place likely to afford them food and repose, they
seldom tarry long. Thus, many individuals, which may have been in Texas early
in April, not unfrequently reach Labrador by the middle of May; although some
are a month later in reaching the ultimate point of their journey, which,
according to Dr. RICHARDSON, sometimes extends as far as the Arctic Regions.
While with us in spring, they confine themselves to the sandy beaches of
our sea-coasts, whether on the mainland or on islands; but when they arrive at
their breeding stations, they abandon their maritime life, and resort to
mountainous mossy lands, as is also the custom with several other species. On
my way to Labrador, I saw some of them in almost every place at which we landed;
and when I reached Nastasguan Bay, they were breeding in all the spots that were
adapted for that purpose. Their manners formed an agreeable subject of
observation to all the members of my party. As soon as one of us was noticed by
a Ring Plover, it would at once stand still and become silent. If we did the
same, it continued, and seldom failed to wear out our patience. If we advanced,
it would lower itself and squat on the moss or bare rock until approached, when
it would suddenly rise on its feet, droop its wings, depress its head, and run
with great speed to a considerable distance, uttering all the while a low
rolling and querulous cry, very pleasing to the ear. On being surprised when in
charge of their young, they would open their wings to the full extent, and beat
the ground with their extremities, as if unable to rise. If pursued, they
allowed us to come within a few feet, then took flight, and attempted to decoy
us away from their young, which lay so close that we very seldom discovered
them, but which, on being traced, ran swiftly off, uttering a plaintive peep
often repeated, that never failed to bring their parents to their aid. At
Labrador, the Ring Plover begins to breed in the beginning of June. On the 2nd
of July, I procured several young birds apparently about a week old; they ran
briskly to avoid us, and concealed themselves so closely by squatting, that it
was very difficult to discover them even when only a few feet distant.
This species, like the Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus, forms no nest;
and whilst the latter scoops a place in the sand for its eggs, the Ring Plover
forms a similar cavity in the moss, in a place sheltered from the north winds,
and exposed to the full rays of the sun, usually near the margins of small ponds
formed by the melting of the snow, and surrounded by short grass. Some of these
pools are found on the tops of the highest rocks of that country. The eggs,
like those of all the family, are four, and placed with the small ends together.
They are broad at the larger end, rather sharp at the other, measure 1 1/4
inches in length, 7 1/8 inches in their greatest breadth, are of a dull
yellowish colour, irregularly blotched and spotted all over with dark brown of
different tints. The young are at first of a yellowish-grey colour, prettily
marked with darker spots on the shoulders and rump. As soon as their parents
dismissed them, they were observed searching for food among the drying cod-fish,
and along the beaches.
By the 12th of August, all the individuals which had bred in Labrador and
Newfoundland, had taken their departure, migrating southward in company with the
Phalaropes and Schintz's Sandpipers. Many of these birds proceed by our great
lakes and rivers, they being sometimes seen in September along the shores of the
Ohio and Mississippi. At this period they are now and then observed on ploughed
lands, where they appear to procure different species of seeds and insects.
Along the whole extent of our Atlantic shores they are numerous at this season,
and great numbers are killed, the flesh of the young birds especially being
juicy and tender.
The flight of this species is swift and sustained. They are fond of
associating with other birds of similar habits, and are generally unsuspicious,
so that they are easily approached. When on wing, their notes are sharp,
sonorous, and frequently repeated. The young members of my party were often
much amused by witnessing our pointer chasing the old birds, whilst the latter,
as if perfectly aware of the superiority in speed, would seem to coax him on,
and never failed to exhaust him by flying along the declivities of the rocks up
to their summits, and afterwards plunging downwards to the base, thus forming
great circuits over a limited range. Their food consists of small crustacea,
mollusca, and the eggs of various marine animals, The old males are very
pugnacious in the breeding season, and engage in obstinate conflicts, drooping
their wings, and trailing their tail fully spread out in the manner of some
species of Grouse on similar occasions.
RING PLOVER, Tringa Hiaticula, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. vii. p. 65.
CHARADRIUS SEMIPALMATUS, Bonap. Syn., P. 296.
AMERICAN RING PLOVER, Charadrius semipalmatus, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor.
Amer. vol. ii. p. 367.
SEMIPALMATED RINGED PLOVER, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 21.
AMERICAN RINGED PLOVER, Charadrius semipalmatus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol.
iv. P. 256; vol. v. p. 579.
Male, 7 1/4, 14.
From Texas to the Arctic Regions, after passing through the interior, as
well as along the Atlantic shores. Breeds in Labrador and the Fur Countries.
Many spend the winter in the Floridas.
Bill shorter than the head, straight, somewhat cylindrical. Upper mandible
with the dorsal line straight for half its length, then bulging a little and
curving to the tip, which is rather acute, the sides sloping at the base, convex
towards the end, where the edges are sharp and direct. Nasal groove extended
along more than half of the mandible; nostrils basal, linear, in the lower part
of the membrane, open, and pervious. Lower mandible with the angle short,
narrow, but rounded, the sides at the base sloping outwards and flat, the dorsal
line ascending and slightly convex, the edges sharp and involute towards the
Head of moderate size, oblong, rather compressed, the forehead rounded.
Eyes large. Neck rather short. Body ovate, compact. Wings long. Feet
slender, of moderate length; tibia bare a considerable way above the joint;
tarsus of moderate length, rather compressed, covered all round with
sub-hexagonal scales; toes slender; the hind toe wanting; third or middle toe
much longer than the outer, which exceeds the inner; all with numerous scutella;
the outer connected with the middle toe by a web, which extends to the second
joint of the former and runs along the edge of the latter, forming a broad
margin, the outer toe also connected with the middle toe by a short membrane
which does not extend more than half-way to the second joint. Claws small,
slightly arched, compressed, rather blunt, that of the middle toe having the
inner edge dilated.
Plumage soft and blended; the feathers rounded, those of the back somewhat
distinct. Wings long and pointed; primary quills tapering, the first longest,
the second a little shorter, the rest rapidly graduated; outer secondaries
incurved and obliquely emarginate; the inner tapering and elongated, one of them
reaching to half an inch from the tip of the longest primary. Tail of moderate
length, considerably rounded, of twelve feathers.
Bill black, its basal half rich orange. Iris deep hazel. Feet pale
flesh-colour, claws black. Forehead, loral space, and a band passing below the
eye and including the auriculars, black; the rest of the head above and the
nape, light greyish-brown, tinged with dull olive. A broad band between the
eyes, continuous with a streak over them, a small band on the lower eyelid, and
a ring on the middle of the neck, enlarged in front so as to cover the throat,
pure white. A broad ring of black on the lower part of the neck, broader in
front. All the lower parts and the sides of the rump white. The upper parts of
the same greyish-brown as the head, the scapulars and elongated inner
secondaries more decidedly glossed with olive. Alula, primary coverts, and
primary quills dusky, the coverts tipped with white, the outer primaries, with a
portion of the shaft, white, the inner with an elongated patch of white on the
outer web in addition, and the proximal part of the inner web of the same
colour. Secondary quills with a narrow terminal margin of white, which is much
enlarged on (or in some specimens covers) the two next to the elongated ones,
which are externally margined with brownish-white. Tail pale greyish-brown,
brownish-black towards the end, the tip white, enlarging on the outer, and
including the whole of the lateral feather, and the outer web of the next.
Length to end of tail 7 1/4 inches, to end of wings 8, to end of claws 7;
extent of wings 14; bill along the ridge 1/2 along the edge of lower mandible
7/12 wing from flexure 5, tail 2 1/2; tarsus 11/12 middle toe and claw 10/12.
Weight 1 1/2 oz.
The female is a little larger than the male, but similar, although the
black markings are tinged with brown.
Young in September.
Bill dusky, at the base yellowish. Feet pale yellowish-green, claws dusky.
Upper parts lighter than in the adult, the feathers margined with pale
yellowish-grey; no black band on the forehead, or on the neck, but a patch of
dusky on the side of the neck and breast; the band from the bill to behind the
This species exhibits a very intimate affinity to Charadrius Hiaticula of
Europe, which is precisely similar in form, proportions, and colouring, but
considerably larger, and having the feet orange-coloured, with the webs much
Width of mouth 2 twelfths. Tongue 4 twelfths long, very concave above,
rounded at the point. OEsophagus 2 inches 8 twelfths long, 3 twelfths in
breadth. Proventriculus 3 1/2 twelfths broad, its glandular belt 6 twelfths.
Stomach oblong, 9 twelfths by 7 twelfths; its muscles large; the epithelium with
numerous rugae. Intestine 14 inches long, 2 twelfths in breadth. Coeca 1 inch
from the extremity, 1 1/2 inches long, 1 1/2 twelfths in width. Trachea 2
inches long, 1 1/2 twelfths in breadth; its rings about 70, very feeble.
Bronchial half rings about 15. The muscles as in the last species.
In the genus Charadrius, the oesophagus is thus narrow or of moderate
width, without crop or remarkable dilatation. The proventriculus is large,
bulbiform, with very numerous small cylindrical glands disposed in a broad belt.
The stomach is roundish or broadly elliptical, moderately compressed; its
lateral muscles large, as are the tendons; the lower muscle prominent and thin;
the upper of considerable size; the epithelium dense, and longitudinally rugous.
The intestine is rather long, and of moderate width; the rectum considerably
dilated; the coeca long, very slender, cylindrical, contracted at the base, with
the tip blunt. The lobes of the liver are very unequal, the right being
largest; there is no gall-bladder. The trachea is rather wide, flattened; its
rings very numerous, narrow, cartilaginous, the lower ring large; two dimidiate
rings. Bronchi rather wide, of from 15 to 20 half rings. Lateral muscles
moderate, sending a slip to the last dimidiate ring.