Pluvianellidae – Magellanic Plover

Magellanic plover Pluvianellus socialis ©James Lowen Website

The Pluvianellidae is a family with just one species; Magellanic plover, which is a rare and unique wader found only in southernmost South America. It was long placed in with the other plovers in the family Charadriidae; however, behavioural evidence suggested they were distinct, and molecular studies confirmed this, suggesting that they are actually more closely related to the sheathbills, a uniquely Antarctic family.

The species is not a long-distance migrant, although some birds move further north in southern Argentina in winter. The species breeds inland and then moves to the coast during the winter, particularly to estuaries.

It is in its structure and habits much like a turnstone, but it cannot be confused with any other wader species. Its upperparts and breast are pale grey, and the rest of the underparts are white. It has short red legs, a black bill and red eyes. In young birds, the eyes and legs are yellowish in colour, and the plumage is grey overall with scaling. The call is a dovelike coo.

It breeds near water, usually saline lakes but there are reports of nests near rivers as well. Pairs defend territories, and both parents share incubation duties. It lays two large eggs on the ground, although usually only one chick survives. One unique aspect of its behaviour and physiology is its method of feeding its chicks. Chicks are fed by regurgitating food stored in the crop, this species being the only wader to do so.

Magellanic plovers feed on small invertebrates, picked from the ground, or from under pebbles, again like a turnstone. They have been observed collecting worms in the bill in a similar fashion to a puffin collecting sand eels.

This family consists of just one species, which is confined to southern Argentina and Chile.

Magellanic plover Pluvianellus socialis

Species Links
  • Magellanic Plover Pluvianellus socialis

    IUCN Species Status
  • Magellanic Plover Pluvianellus socialis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Magellanic Plover Pluvianellus socialis

    Species Account
    As such it is now placed in its own family, Pluvianellidae.
  • Magellanic Plover Pluvianellus socialis

    Cornell Species Account
    The Magellanic Plover is no plover; in fact it is the sole member of the family Pluvianellidae. It is a small shorebird with a short and peg-like bill, dove-gray plumage, and curious behavior.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 1

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