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Black-bellied Plover, Arctic Nester

At home in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

In the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, June days offer almost continuous daylight to breeding birds, including this Black-bellied Plover. At this high latitude, Black-bellied Plovers can complete their breeding cycle in a month and a half. Not long after the summer solstice, the adults begin their southbound migration, without their young. Juveniles don't migrate with their parents, but wait a month.

Full Transcript



Black-bellied Plover, Arctic Nester

Written by Frances Wood

This is BirdNote.

[Mournful call of the Black-bellied Plover]

We’re approaching the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. In the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, June days offer breeding birds almost continuous daylight. Here’s one shorebird that breeds in the Arctic, the Black-bellied Plover.

As you listen, imagine a bird with a dramatic black face, neck, and belly, a stark white head and a speckled back.

[Call of the Black-bellied Plover]

In late April and early May, Black-bellied Plovers make their way north along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Many settle into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to nest on the tundra. Here, a male circles overhead while giving its flight song.

[Flight song of the Black-bellied Plover]

The plovers complete their breeding cycle in a month and a half. The parents build open nests on the ground, where they lay and incubate four eggs. As soon as the young hatch, alert and covered with down, they follow their parents and begin foraging for insects on the tundra’s low vegetation.

Shortly after the summer solstice, however, the adult Black-bellied Plovers begin their southbound migration, without their young. The juveniles won’t follow for another month. And yet, somehow they know the route, even though they have never flown it before.

[Call of the Black-bellied Plover]

Learn more about Black-bellied Plovers and other birds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at I’m Mary McCann.


Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Mary McCann

Call of the Black-bellied Plover provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Mournful call recorded by W.W.H. Gunn, flight calls recorded by R. Stein.

BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 BirdNote     June 2019

ID# 062005BBPL                    BBPL-01c

Sights & Sounds

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