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Description of Residence for Mountain Plover (CHARADRIUS montanus) in Canada

Section 33 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) prohibits damaging or destroying the residence of a listed threatened, endangered, or extirpated species. SARA defines residence as: “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating” [s.2(1)].

The prohibition comes into effect in different ways depending on the jurisdiction responsible for the species.  As a migratory bird protected under the Migratory Bird Convention Act, the Mountain Plover is under federal jurisdiction.  This means the residence prohibition is in effect on all lands on which the species occurs immediately upon its addition to the legal list of species at risk. 

Section 33 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), prohibits damaging or destroying a listed threatened, endangered, or extirpated species ’ residence. SARA defines residence as: “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating” [s.2(1)]. The prohibition comes into effect immediately upon listing for all threatened, endangered, and extirpated species on federal lands, and for species under federal jurisdiction on all lands.  Species under federal jurisdiction are aquatic species (a wildlife species that is a fish, as defined in section 2 of the Fisheries Act, or a marine plant, as defined in section 47 of that Act) or migratory birds under the Migratory Birds Convention Act.  SARA also contains a provision to prohibit the destruction of non-federal species’ residences on provincial, territorial, and private lands by way of the federal criminal law power, if the Minister of the Environment deems it necessary to do so [s.34(2), 35(2)].

The following description of residence for the Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) was created for the purposes of increasing public awareness and aiding enforcement of the above prohibition.  Mountain Plovers are known to have one type of residence – the nest.

Species Information:

Common Name - Mountain Plover

Scientific Name - Charadrius montanus

Current COSEWIC Status and Year of Designation – Endangered (1987, 2000)

Occurrence in Canada - In Canada, breeding is restricted to the southeast corner of Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan (Fig. 1)

Rationale for Designation - This species occurs in extremely low numbers in Canada and may not breed here every year; it is dependent on habitats with very sparse vegetation resulting from overgrazing or burning.

Figure 1. Known distribution of the Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) in Canada.

Figure 2. Mountain Plover nest and eggs

1) The Nest

Physical Appearance and Context

Any site used as a nest by a Mountain Plover is a residence. 

Mountain Plovers breed in areas of short or intensively grazed vegetation, recently burned grasslands, bare ground and flat topography1,2,3,4.  Of the few Mountain Plovers breeding in Canada, most nest in grazed or recently burned areas in native mixed grassland1.  However, some nests are found in discontinuous areas of open grassland within grassland-scattered sagebrush, including two nests recorded at a Sage Grouse lek3, and there is one occurrence of nesting in a cultivated field1.  In Saskatchewan, Mountain Plovers observations are often in or near Black-tailed Prairie-dog colonies, including one breeding record1.  Prairie-dogs reduce both the height and cover of vegetation making sites more suitable for nesting by Mountain Plovers. 

Nest sites are generally at least 30% bare ground and have vegetation less than 10 cm in height2.  The nest is a scrape (bowl-shaped depression) in the ground, usually in loam, clay, or gravel soils2.  After the clutch is laid, material such as lichen, leaves, cow manure, and Lagomorph (rabbit and hare) droppings are added until the eggs are about half buried2,5.   Only three eggs are laid per nest.  The male may incubate a first nest and the female may lay a second clutch which she incubates1.  Eggs are dark olive buff, chamois, or rarely light pinkish cinnamon with irregular black markings2 (Fig. 2).  The eggs are pear-shaped and approximately 38 x 28mm2.  The eggs take approximately one month to hatch, and the chicks leave the nest within days of hatching1.  Nesting usually occurs from May to July.

Function

The function of the nest residence is to provide protection, shelter, and the required conditions for egg laying, incubation, and hatching. 

 Damage or Destruction of the Residence

Any activity that damages or destroys the function of the nest would constitute damage or destruction of the residence.  This would include, but not limited to, preventing access by the adult birds to the nest, taking, moving, or otherwise disturbing the eggs, destroying the nest, or changes to the microclimate of the nest (such as internal temperature). 

Period and Frequency of Occupancy

The nest constitutes a residence from the time of construction until the precocial (mobile within hours of hatching) chicks hatch and leave the nest.  This will typically occur between late-April and late-July each year.

 Additional Information

For more information on the Mountain Plover, go to: http://www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca/search/speciesDetails_e.cfm?SpeciesID=27

For more information on SARA, go to: http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/default_e.cfm

References

1 Wershler, C. R. 2000. Update COSEWIC Status Report on Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus).  Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 31 pp.

2 Knopf, F. L. 1996. Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus). In The Birds of North America, No. 211 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.

3Wershler, C.R. and C.A. Wallis. 1986. Status Report on the Mountain Plover, Charadrius montanus, in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 40 pp.

4Knowles, C. J. and P. R. Knowles. 1998. The historic and current status of the mountain plover in Montana. Bureau of Land Management, Billings, Montana.

5Wallis, C. A. and C. R. Wershler. 1981. Status and breeding of Mountain Plovers (Charadrius montanus) in Canada. Can. Field-Nat. 95:133-136.

6Graul, W. D. 1975. Breeding biology of the Mountain Plover. Wilson Bulletin 87:6-31.