Black-bellied Plovers at Ft. Flagler

I knew we would be in Colorado during the height of the Spring Shorebird Migration, so I hoped to see the early birds when Leslie and I went to Fort Flagler on April 25th.  I wasn’t disappointed, either.  Though there weren’t nearly as many birds as I’m used to seeing at Bottle Beach on the Washington coast, there were still large numbers of birds, more than enough to get good photos of several different species.

Black-bellied Plovers are definitely one of my favorite shorebirds to photograph.  Their breeding plumage is spectacular, especially since their winter plumage is a subtle grayish brown. The striking black face, breast, and belly distinguish it from other shorebirds.

Black-bellied Plover

Since the breeding plumage is so distinctive, I’ve always thought it was just a means of attracting a mate,  so I was surprised at how well the breeding plumage blended into their coastal habitat. In fact, they blended in so well that it was often difficult to see them unless they took off as you got close or you saw where they landed after flying away.

Black-bellied Plover next to barnacle-covered rocks

The camouflage on the back, obvious in this shot, would also lessen the risk of falling prey to raptors as they hunted for food on the shoreline.

Though I was surprised when I first saw how the spangled upper feathers blended in with the barnacle-covered rocks, I was almost equally surprised that the plover also blended in well when seen at eye level.

Wilson Snipes may be better camouflaged than Black-bellied Plovers and male Wood Ducks may be more beautiful, but I don’t know any bird that combines beauty and camouflage better.   

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