‘CHECK OUT THE WEB’: SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS ON ABACO
“Semipalmated”. You what? Come again? Ehhhh? My reactions to the word until embarrassingly recently. In fact until the steep learning curve involved in writing a bird book made
some all of the terminology clearer. Plovers and sandpipers both have semipalmated versions, and I’ll take the semipalmated plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) first.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
A small shorebird with a grey-brown back and wings, a white underside with a single black neck band, and orange legs. They have a brown cap, a white forehead, a black eye mask and a short black bill with an orange base to it. And feet to be discussed below.
WHERE DO THEY LIVE?
Their summer home and breeding habitat is on the beaches and flats of northern Canada and Alaska. They nest in scrapes on the ground right out in the open. In the Autumn these little birds set off on long journeys south to warmer climes until Spring: the coasts of the southern states, Caribbean and South America. On Abaco, they are fairly common in certain areas including the beach at Delphi. Like other plovers, these birds are gregarious and will mix in with other shorebirds – which can make them hard to pick out in the crowd.
GET ON WITH THE ‘SEMIPALMATED’ BIT, PLEASE
‘Semipalmated’ refers to the partial webbing between their toes. There are different degrees of palmation, as these handy graphics demonstrate:
Palmate: full webbing across the ‘front’ 3 toes, e.g. gulls
Totipalmate: all toes are fully webbed e.g. cormorants
Nonpalmate: please supply own imagination