Archived 2014 discussion: Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) is being split: list C. nivosus as Near Threatened, C. dealbatus as Data Deficient and C. alexandrinus as Least Concern?

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for non-passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus is being split into C. alexandrinus, C. nivosus and C. dealbatus, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, C. alexandrinus (BirdLife species factsheet) was listed as being of Least Concern, on the basis that it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria.

C. nivosus is a widespread partial migrant in North America, Central America, western South America and the Caribbean, where it mainly occupies coastal habitats, as well as inland waterbodies (del Hoyo et al. 1996). A recent study by Thomas et al. (2012) estimated the total North American population to be 25,869 breeding individuals, with approximately 42% of the breeding population in North America residing at two sites; Great Salt Lake, Utah, and Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma. Saalfeld et al. (2013) compared survey counts of adult C. nivosus between 1999-2000 and 2008-2009 on two lakes in the Southern High Plains of Texas that support a large proportion of the regional population, and showed that they decreased by 78% at one saline lake (from 80 adults/survey to 8 adults/survey), although they remained constant at another lake (from 45 adults/survey to 41 adults/survey).

It is suggested that this species could qualify as Near Threatened under criteria A2bc+3c+4bc, on the basis that it might be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline (approaching 30% over 15 years [estimate of three generations]), following evidence of regional declines and on-going threats such as habitat degradation and disturbance (Page et al. 2009, Thomas et al. 2012).

C. dealbatus (originally described as Aegialites dealbatus by Robert Swinhoe in 1870 [Kennerley et al. 2008]) is thought to be a migrant breeder in coastal southern China (Fujian and Hainan provinces), and non-breeding visitor to the coasts of continental South-East Asia, including the Thai-Malay Peninsula, south to Sumatra (Bakewell and Kennerley 2008, Kennerley et al. 2008, Chandler 2009, Rheindt et al. 2011), although previous confusion over taxonomy and on-going identification challenges (despite recent comprehensive reviews of field identification features [e.g. Bakewell and Kennerley 2008, Kennerley et al. 2008]) mean there is still considerable uncertainty over the species’s distribution (Kennerley et al. 2008). It is thought to be rare, but probably also under-recorded (Kennerley et al. 2008).

This species inhabits sandy areas and mudflats, and has been observed during the non-breeding season on areas of reclaimed land that were formerly intertidal mudflats and mangroves, where water had been drained and sand added in preparation for construction, thus creating temporary artificial areas that mimic sandy beaches (Bakewell and Kennerley 2008, Kennerley et al. 2008). Such areas are likely to represent suboptimal habitat and are probably only used for roosting, as they are presumably unsuitable for feeding (Kennerley et al. 2008).

It is unclear whether this species faces any immediate threats during the non-breeding season, as it may benefit from the temporary habitats created through coastal land reclamation (Kennerley et al. 2008). The situation in the species’s breeding range is not known, but extensive degradation of coastal habitats in southern China strongly suggests that breeding areas have been lost. China’s growing tourist infrastructure, particularly in Hainan and Guangxi provinces, may threaten the species if beaches are indeed its preferred habitat during the breeding season (Kennerley et al. 2008).

For the purpose of discerning the likely population trend in this species, it may be assumed provisionally that it has a generation length of 5 years, and thus a three-generation trend period of 15 years (as estimated by BirdLife International for C. alexandrinus). However, it may be appropriate to list this species as Data Deficient, if it is judged that there is insufficient information on its distribution, threats and likely population trend for a robust assessment of its Red List status against the IUCN criteria.

C. alexandrinus (as defined following the taxonomic change, and incorporating all other forms, including nihonensis – the form occurring commonly in East and South-East Asia for which the name dealbatus was mistakenly assigned subsequent to the description of Aegialites [Charadrius] dealbatus [Kennerley et al. 2008, Rheindt et al. 2011]) is mostly migratory and widespread in Eurasia and Africa north of the equator, inhabiting a range of coastal and inland aquatic habitats (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The overall population trend is difficult to discern, and some populations may be in decline (Delany et al. 2009, AEWA 2012, Wetlands International 2013); however, it is likely to be listed as being of Least Concern, on the basis that it is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria.

Comments on these suggested categories and further information would be welcomed.


AEWA (2012) Report on the conservation status of migratory waterbirds in the Agreement Area. Fifth edition. Fifth session of the Meeting of the Parties, La Rochelle, France.

Bakewell, D. N. and Kennerley, P. R. (2008) Field characteristics and distribution of an overlooked Charadrius plover from South-East Asia. BirdingASIA 9: 46–57.

Chandler, R. (2009) Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere. London, UK: Christopher Helm.

Delany, S., Scott, D., Dodman, T. and Stroud, D. (eds.) (2009) An Atlas of Wader Populations in Africa and Western Eurasia. Wageningen, The Netherlands: Wetlands International.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the birds of the world, Vol 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Kennerley, P. R., Bakewell, D. N. and Round, P. D. (2008) Rediscovery of a long-lost Charadrius plover from South-East Asia. Forktail 24: 63–79.

Page, G. W., Stenzel, L. E., Page, G. W., Warriner, J. S., Warriner, J. C.  and Paton, P. W. (2009) Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus). In Poole, A. (ed.) The Birds of North America Online. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Downloaded from: doi:10.2173/bna.154.

Rheindt, F. E., Székely, T., Edwards, S. V., Lee, P. L. M., Burke, T., Kennerley, P. R., Bakewell, D. N., Alrashidi, M., Kosztolányi, A., Weston, M. A., Wei-Ting Liu, Wei-Ting Lei, Yoshimitsu Shigeta, Javed, S., Zefania, S. and Küpper, C. (2011) Conflict between Genetic and Phenotypic Differentiation: The Evolutionary History of a ‘Lost and Rediscovered’ Shorebird. PLoS ONE 6(11): e26995. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026995.

Saalfeld, S. T., Conway, W. C., Haukos, D. A. and Johnson, W. P. (2013) Recent declines in apparent survival and survey counts of snowy plovers breeding in the southern high plains of Texas. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 125(1): 79–87.

Thomas, S. M., Lyons, J. E., Andres, B. A., T-Smith, E. E., Palacios, E., Cavitt, J. F., Royle, J. A., Fellows, S. D., Maty, K., Howe, W. H., Mellink, E., Melvin, S. and Zimmerman, T. (2012) Population Size of Snowy Plovers Breeding in North America. Journal of the Waterbird Society 35(1): 1–14.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

Wetlands International (2013) Waterbird Population Estimates. Retrieved from: on Wednesday 3 Apr 2013.

Map of Charadrius a. alexandrinus breeding range in Germany (DDA, unpublished data)

Trend of Charadrius a. alexandrinus breeding population in Germany (DDA, unpublished data)

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14 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) is being split: list C. nivosus as Near Threatened, C. dealbatus as Data Deficient and C. alexandrinus as Least Concern?

  1. It is look like wide spread although in small number at east coast Sumatra from Aceh in northern part to South Sumatra, Indonesia (Iqbal et al. 2010, 2012, 2013).

    – Iqbal, M., Abdillah, H. Nurza, A. Wahyudi, T. Giyanto & Iqbal, M. 2013. A review of new and noteworthy shorebird records during the period 2001-2011 in Sumatra, Indonesia. Wader Study Group Bulletin (in prep).
    – Iqbal, M., Mulyono, H. Kadarisman, R. & Surahman. 2010. A new southernmost record of White-faced Plover Charadrius dealbatus. Wader Study Group Bulletin 117 (3): 190-191.
    – Iqbal, M., Priatna, D. & R. Dedi. 2012. Notes on the early northward migration of Sumatran waders on the east coast of Jambi Province, Indonesia in 2011. Stilt 61: 45-50.

  2. I have seen nests of Kentish Plovers (Charadrius alexandrnus) in Nagpur and Amravati districts on Maharashtra in India. And I have found from internet sources that Kentish Plover is found nearly (at least upto Madhya Pradesh) in southern parts of India in summer. And summer is the breeding period of this species in India. It breeds on small islands exposed due to drying up of freshwater wetlands. It breeds with the resident Little Ringed Plovers , Small Pratincoles and other ground nesting birds. But I found few nests at each site.
    Hence, it is either a resident bird in south India or at least it is a summer breeding migrant to this region.
    Here is a reference to the short note published by me long back:

    Kasambe, R., (2007): First record of breeding of Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus seebohmi) from Vidarbha, Maharashtra. Newsletter for Birdwatchers. Vol. 47(2): 30.

  3. Richard Porter says:

    Nothing to add. The preliminary assessments seem sound,

  4. Julie Wraithmell says:

    Audubon Florida supports the analysis for C. nivosus and is glad to see additional attention being afforded to this species. Habitat loss, threats from invasive species, and impacts to habitat from recreational use make conservation of this species in the SE US increasingly challenging. Observed and anticipated sea level rise and climate perturbations are additional concerns.

  5. Is there any assessment on the resident population in western South America (ssp occidentalis under nivosus)? Despite occurring in most coastal wetlands in the deserts of the distribution area, it is never numerous, it is almost always found in pairs and small numbers in each area.

  6. Vy Nguyen says:

    I have a confusion regarding the species Charadrius alexandrines. Could you help me to know so far, officially, how many subspecies of Charadrius. a in the world?

    • Joe Taylor says:

      Thank you for your question.

      Following the taxonomic change, there appear to be at least three subspecies in Charadrius alexandrinus: C. a. nihonensis, C. a. seebohmi and the nominate. However, this is provisional and will be confirmed in the Checklist.

  7. Vy Nguyen says:

    I found some individuals of White-faced Plover in South Central Viet Nam with chicks in April 2011 some adults in August 2012.

  8. I have seen Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus breeding in many wetlands of deccan peninsula of Maharashtra , India.

  9. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments and data were sent by Johanna Karthäuser on 27 August 2013, on behalf of the Dachverband Deutscher Avifaunisten (DDA):

    In Germany, due to the continuing decline of its breeding population and the reduction of potential breeding range, we consider the situation for the Kentish Plover as worryingly. Please see the attached Excel-table [below forum topic] for 12- and 25-year-trend figures in Germany. The mean 12-year-trend shows a strong decrease of -45% while the mean 25-year-trend represents a reduction of -69%.

    Attached [below forum topic] you will also find the most up to date map of the species’ breeding range in Germany. The respective breeding bird surveys were conducted in the years 2005 to 2009. Data will be published in the next German Breeding Bird Atlas, which will be published in the next months.

    Even if the species does not meet the IUCN criteria for uplisting to Vulnerable in the next worldwide Red List, we are concerned about the situation of Kentish Plover in Europe. It is declining in most European countries (i.e. as shown in Birds in Europe 2) and we see chances that this decline contiues as high.

    – DDA, unpublished data.

  10. Brad Andres says:

    The Pacific coast population of Charadrius nivosus nivosus, which is listed as a Distinct Population Segment under the U.S. Edangered Species Act, has not recovered and has actually declined in recent years. The Caribbean population, C. n. tenuirostris, seems precarious due to current threats and sea-level rise due to climate change. Information from Florida suggests a stable population, but information on trend from the interior USA population is lacking. A designation of “Least Concern” seems to conservative for this species.

  11. Joe Taylor says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List would be to treat:

    C. alexandrinus as Least Concern

    C. nivosus as Near Threatened under criteria A2bc+3c+4bc

    C. dealbatus as Data Deficient

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  12. Dominic Cimiotti says:

    NABU (BirdLife in Germany) agrees with Dachverband Deutscher Avifaunisten (DDA) about the critical situation of Kentish plovers in Germany. The species is listed as critically endangered in the German Red List of breeding birds (Südbeck et al. 2007) and in the new German Red List of migratory birds (Hüppop et al. 2013). The species became extinct at the German Baltic coast and the numbers in the Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony dropped down to eight pairs in 2013 (G. Reichert, National park administration Niedersächsiches Wattenmeer, personal communication). The population in the Dutch Wadden Sea has decreased to only eleven pairs in recent years (van Beusekom 2013).

    Fortunately, the remaining German core population at the Wadden Sea coast of Schleswig-Holstein increased from 174 breeding pairs in 2009 to 251 breeding pairs due to a conservation project of NABU financed by the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Areas Schleswig-Holstein (Cimiotti et al. 2013). However, the population of Schleswig-Holstein strongly depends on ongoing management efforts in secondary habitats (polder areas). Nearly 60% of the states’ population is concentrated in one area (Beltringharder Koog).

    The results of an international workshop on conservation of Kentish plovers in north-western Europe (Cimiotti & Hötker 2014) have been published in the latest issue of the Wader Study Group Bulletin.

    We do not have any information about the population trend in the species’ core breeding range (e.g. central Asia) but core populations within Europe (Spain, Italy and the Ukraine) as well as Turkey showed moderate declines according to ‘Birds in Europe 2’. However, we do not have any evidence to promote an up-listing of the species in the global Red List.

    Dominic Cimiotti & Hermann Hötker
    NABU, BirdLife in Germany


    Beusekom, R. van (2013): De Strandplevier heeft geen rust. Vogelnieuws 26, August 2013: 18-19.

    Cimiotti, D.V. & Hötker, H. (2014): Conservation of Kentish Plovers in NW Europe: results of a workshop in N Germany. Wader Study Group Bull. 120

    Cimiotti, D.V., Schulz, R., Bellebaum, J., Cimiotti, D.S., Klinner-Hötker, B. & H. Hötker (2012): Möglichkeiten zum Erhalt der Brutpopulationen des Seeregenpfeifers in Schleswig-Holstein – Untersuchungen 2013. Bericht für das Ministerium für Energiewende, Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und ländliche Räume des Landes Schleswig-Holstein. Michael-Otto-Institut im NABU, Bergenhusen.

    Hüppop, O., Bauer, H.-G. et al. (2013): Rote Liste wandernder Vogelarten Deutschlands, 1. Fassung, 31. Dezember 2012. Ber. Vogelschutz 49/50.

    Südbeck, P., H.-G. Bauer, et al. (2007). “Rote Liste der Brutvögel Deutschlands, 4. Fassung, 30. November 2007.” Berichte zum Vogelschutz 44: 23-81.

  13. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List status of these species.

    The final categorisations will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by BirdLife and IUCN.

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