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Common Ringed or Semipalmated Plover, Barrow, Alaska (1 Viewer)

Joe H

Well-known member
United States
I took the three pictures below during July many years ago. I came across them on an old computer that’s soon to be recycled so I took pictures off the screen of the old computer rather than properly transfer the digital files. The quality of the images is not great but I’m hoping they are good enough to help nail down the species.

To me, the overall color seems more Semipalmated Plover, Charadrius semipalmatus (listed in my guides as uncommon) but the face markings look more like Common Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula (listed as very rare or vagrant). The side view in #2 shows the bib when the bird is stretched out. Ebird has great pictures of both species in flight, and flared out like my #3 shot and the tail seems more like Common to me but I’m not sure. I’ve got both species on my life list so this is just an attempt to nail down a bird I can’t figure out on my own; I’d be happy for a confident ID either way.

This bird caught my attention because it was near a flock of about a dozen Semipalmated Plovers on a Rocky beach, but never joined them or intermixed with them. It hung on the outskirts of the group and caught my attention. It was slightly larger or maybe more puffed up than the other birds so I took a few pictures. These three were the best. Unfortunately, no calls were heard.

Any opinions would be extremely appreciated. Thanks in advance, Joe.


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According to DA Sibley, Semipalmated has little or no white in the supercillium and I think the common has a rounder head than this bird, but there is posture and variation range to consider. Behaviour could favour Common too. Someone that knows more about local birds would be more helpful and better views of the feet would help
Thanks Andy! Some further study seems to indicate that if it were a Common Ringed, it’s likely to be from the Siberian sub-species C. h. tundrae, which is described in one of my field guides as particularly difficult to differentiate from Semipalmated without hearing the calls. I did a google search for illustrations of C. h. tundrae and saw that the back color of many of the tundrae sub-species is identical to Semipalmated. I’ll include a composite of my mystery bird along with the two likely suspects in flared flight mode, but given wear and whatnot, I’m not sure this mystery can be solved without looking between the toes…


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