Diademed Sandpiper-Plover Fact File
Alternative names: Diademed Plover, Mitchell’s Plover, Chorlo Cordillerano (Spanish, local, Peru), Chorlito Cordillerano (Spanish, local, Chile), Chorlito de Vincha (Spanish, local, Argentina), Chorlito de Ciénagas (Spanish), Pluvier des Andes (French), Banderregenpfeifer/Diademregenpfeifer (German).
Scientific Name: Phegornis mitchellii (Gray 1846) – Phegornis: Greek phengos = light, splendour, ornis: bird. mitchellii: after David William Mitchell (1813-1859), English Zoologist and secretary of the Zoological Society of London 1847-1859.
Diademed Sandpiper-Plover was first described from Chile by Fraser in 1845 as Leptopus – Greek leptos = delicate, slender, pous = foot (Leptodactylus – Greek daktulos = toe) Mitchellii – formerly upper case was used when people’s names were used as specific names. In 1846 G.R. Gray described the genus Phegornis for the species and the bird’s scientific name became Phegornis mitchellii which is the name still in use today.
Subspecies: None – Monotypic
Distribution: South America: Andes mountain range from Peru through Bolivia south to south-central Chile and Argentina.
Habitat preference: Alpine Puna where it prefers mossy tundra, waterlogged grassland, bogs and swamps with matted cushion plant vegetation, gravel or grass on river valley plains and lake shores.
Breeding: Austral summer from October to December (Chile), January (Bolivia). Low density, in isolated pairs. Territorial and mating rituals undescribed. Two eggs, olive-grey with black spots. Nest a circle of grasses. Downy chicks are dark brown, marbled with black above and lighter below.
Migration: Altitudinal migrant. Breeds between 3,500–5,000 m (11,500–16,400 ft) above sea-level; in southern parts of range they descend in March wintering down to 2,000 m (6,600 ft) but in the north rarely below 3,300 m (10,800ft). Not gragarious even on wintering grounds with groups seldom bigger the half a dozen reported. Returns to higher altitude in October. Possible northerly movement in Austral autumn and return in Austral Spring.
Conservation Status: IUCN: Near Threatened. Population size unknown but estimated to be 1,500-7,000 mature individuals and decreasing. Rare but widespread. Remoteness of habitat suggests it may be secure, however if climate change affects the mountains (we have seen other bird species ranges changing altitudianally, then the small amount of habitat that is availbale to this species may disappear altogether.
Threats: Climate change, livestock ranching and farming, roads and railways, recreational activities, dams and water management.
Vital Statistics: Length 16.5–20.5 cm (6.49–8.07 in) Wing 13.9-14.5 cm (5.47- 5.70 in) Bill 1.6-1.8 cm (0.62-0.70 in) Tarsus 2.5-2.7 cm (0.98-1.06 in) Weight 28–46 g (0.99–1.62 oz) Eggs 3.4 x 2.5 cm est 11.7 g.
Habits: Approachable, relying on its diminutive size, disruptive camouflage and quiet sedate habits. Often skulks in depressions and gullies in the ground. Unusually among waders the flight of the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover is fluttery and undulating whichj has been said to recall a Pianted-Snipe Rostratula sp.and also a Hoopoe Upapa epops, with its short rounded wings and short tail. It holds its wings stiffly and slightly below horizontal for the most part with its head held upright. Teeters like Common Sandpiper.
Food: Probably insects gleaned from the surface of water, substrate and aquatic plants. Also probes with bill held vertically.
Plumage: Sexes similar but females tend to be duller, no seasonal variation. Juveniles lack the blackish head with white ‘tiara’ and chestnut collar that is so distinctive in adults and has a mottled brown appearance to upperparts and little barring below. After post juvenile moult only differs from adults with retained inner coverts and worn primaries.
Bare parts: Bill long (for a plover) and subtly drooping at the tip resembling a Dunlin Calidris alpina. Legs yellow.
Voice: Generally silent but distinctive, penetrating plover-like whistle sometimes uttered as is a lower pitched more plaintive whistle and soft contact notes reported.
Curiosities: This species is depicted on a Wader Quest Collectables pin badge. It was the first badge we created. (Available for the Wader Quest shop.)
Current conservation efforts
Current research projects
Geolocator tagged birds currently being studied to ascertain movements if any in Chlie.
All photographs by Elis Simpson – Wader Quest unless otherwise stated.
Artwork thumbnail by Ronald Messemaker.
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Phegornis mitchellii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 10/01/2019.
Hayman, Peter, John Marchant & Tony Prater: Shorebirds (1986)
del Hoyo, Josep, Andrew Elliot & Jordi Sargatal: Handbook of the Birds of the World – Vol. 3 (1996)
Jobling, James A.: Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names (2010)
Johnsgard, Paul A.: The Plovers, Sandpipers, and Snipes of the World (1981)
Rosair, David & David Cotteridge: Photographic guide to the Waders of the World (1995)
Wiersma, P., Kirwan, G.M. & de Juana, E. (2019). Diademed Plover (Phegornis mitchellii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53857 on 11 January 2019).