The plover family includes at least two dozen species around the world that are small with a single black ring, partial or complete, from the sides of the neck across the chest. Most have brown backs — the color of wet mud — but a few are much paler, the color of dry sand. North America has two species of small, pale-backed plovers of this group. The Piping Plover gets the most attention because it’s an endangered species found close to major centers of human population. The Snowy Plover, a more widespread bird, is more often ignored.
Indeed, the Snowy Plover is easy to overlook. It’s the smallest plover in North America (half the bulk of an American Robin) and one of the plainest. Adult males in breeding plumage show a black bar across the forehead, dusky cheeks, and a black mark at each side of the neck; these marks are less distinct on adult females and lacking on juveniles and winter birds. Snowy Plovers are also inconspicuous because they tend to stand motionless, or to move slowly and hesitantly, when humans are nearby. Their pale, drab color blends well with their usual surroundings. Their callnotes are mostly soft, and the birds often remain silent.