Lesser sand plover (Charadrius mongolus)

Also known as: Mongolian dotterel, Mongolian plover, Mongolian sand dotterel, Mongolian sand plover, sand plover
French: Pluvier de Mongolie
GenusCharadrius (1)
SizeLength: 19 - 21 cm (2)
Wingspan: 45 - 58 cm (2)
Weight39 - 79 g (2)

The lesser sand plover is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The lesser sand plover is a small wading shorebird with greyish-brown upperparts, a white abdomen and throat, and a black forehead. During the breeding season, the feathers on the top of the head and on the breast turn a rusty red, and the sides of the cheeks become black. A thin, black line divides the red breast from the white neck, a feature that, together with its smaller size, helps to distinguish this species from the closely related greater sand plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) (3) (4).

The lesser sand plover typically breeds in eastern Siberia, southern Mongolia, western China and the Himalayas (3), although it has also been known to breed in Alaska (4) (5). It is a migratory species, spending the winter in eastern and southern Africa, the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula, India, South East Asia and Australia (3) (4), and on very rare occasions in western Europe (4).

During the breeding season, the lesser sand plover inhabits tundra, steppe and deserts, where it nests on bare ground (3) (4). This species winters on tidal flats, sandy beaches, estuaries, mud-flats and streams (4).

The diet of the lesser sand plover includes insects, crustaceans and molluscs, as well as marine and annelid worms, although it has also been observed eating seeds (5) (6) (7). Foraging either alone or in small, scattered flocks, the lesser sand plover moves about in a characteristic series of short, quick bursts, frequently pausing to lunge at prey (3). During the non-breeding season, flocks of up to 100 or more may form (7).

The lesser sand plover nests in a scrape on bare ground, in bare sand or shingle, sometimes beside bushes or large stones. It has also been known to nest within a cattle footprint (3) (7). The female typically lays three eggs, but it is usually the male that undertakes most of the responsibility for incubating the eggs for the following 22 to 24 days, and is also the primary carer of the young after hatching (3) (5). At the end of the breeding season, migratory flocks form, and depart the breeding grounds from July, returning again from the following February. However, many non-breeding individuals remain in the wintering grounds year-round (5) (7).

The main threat to the lesser sand plover is the loss and degradation of its preferred habitats, as a result of residential, agricultural and tourism developments (6) (7). In certain areas, its habitat may also be negatively impacted by pollution, an invasion of weeds or pests, or an increase of silt in the water, all of which may potentially affect the availability of the lesser sand plover’s prey (8). However, the species currently remains widespread and numerous, and is not believed to be at immediate risk of extinction (7).

The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) was set up specifically to help conserve species that, like the lesser sand plover, are dependent on wetlands for at least part of the year. The actions taken by countries participating in this agreement include implementing legal measures to protect the habitat of waterbirds (9).

In Australia, the lesser sand plover is likely to benefit from a number of projects aimed at the conservation of migratory waterbirds, including Shorebird 2020, which aims to monitor shorebird populations at important sites throughout Australia. The Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds also outlines some of the various activities and initiatives being undertaken (8).

To find out more about the conservation of this and other waterbirds see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2009)
  2. O’Brien, M., Crossley, R. and Karlson, K. (2006) The Shorebird Guide. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
  3. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service: Threatened Species Information - Lesser Sand Plover (November, 2009)
  4. Hayman, P., Marchant, J. and Prater, T. (1986) Shore Birds: Identification Guide to Waders of the World. Christopher Helm Publishers, London.
  5. Delany, S., Scott, D., Dodman, T. and Stroud, D. (2009) An Atlas of Wader Populations. Wetlands International, The Netherlands.
  6. Smith, P. (1991) The Biology and Management of Waders in NSW. Species Management Report Number 9, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville.
  7. BirdLife International (November, 2009)
  8. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. (2009) Charadrius mongolus. In: Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Available at:
  9. Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (November, 2009)