• Copyright Paul B. Jones

    Argentina & Chile: Saving the Magellanic plovers of Patagonia

  • Argentina & Chile: Saving the Magellanic plovers of Patagonia

In Brief

Conservation Value:

This species has a small global poplution once estimated to be in the thousands (7,000+) but surveys in 2021-22 indicate that the population may be less than 1,000.  A comprehensive survey of known breeding sites recorded just 264 individuals, while the following wintering area surveys recorded 300 individuals (including 55 juveniles). The species is the sole member of the family Pluvianellidae, increasing its conservation significance..


Threats include reduced habitat quality of breeding areas due to sheep farming and the use of water bodies as watering holes; trampling of nests by cattle; disturbance by dogs and the use of all-terrain vehicles on the banks of lagoons. Indirect human impacts include the degradation and desertification of the Patagonian steppe due to overgrazing and climate change. Decreases in annual rainfall attributed to climate change may negatively affect reproductive success. Finally, there appears to be decreased quality of the wintering habitat near the city of Río Gallegos, with possible contamination from urban effluents and higher numbers of dogs.  An emerging threat is the installation of large wind farms in current and potential sites for plovers.

Actions & Results:

During the breeding season (November to February), "Plover guardians" surveyed and protected nests at three key sites for the species, subject to accessibility, weather conditions, presence of the species and use by the community (mainly birdwatchers and photographers).

●      Laguna Los Palos, Chile: 1 or 2 weekly visits

●      Lago Argentino, Argentina: 3 weekly visits

●      Laguna Estancia Los Pozos, Argentina: 1 visit every 10-15 days

In addition to the presence of guardians, camera traps were placed at these sites to assist in the collection of information needed to better understand threats.  For example, a black-faced ibis was filmed predating eggs in a plover nest and the threats of trampling by cattle were confirmed.  To combat threats experimental steel cages with large openings were placed over some nests and these did protect eggs from trampling.  

Because the protection of these plovers in new in the region, interpretive signs were made an erected to help explain the ecology and needs of this species, since visitors can frequently disturb the natural dynamics of the species.

As part of further research to better understand the species' movements, four adults were banded tagged with Lotek Solar trackers that emit signals every 10 days.  


Lago Argentino and Laguna Estancia Los Pozos in Argentina and Laguna Los Palos in Chile


To reverse the decline of the Magellanic plover (Pluvianellus socialis).

Project Field Partner:

Our partner is the Argentinian conservation organization Asociación Ambiente Sur.


2022 cost: CA$2,042

2023 budget (ICFC portion): US$42,900


Click to enlarge an image

Magellanic plover by fabian penasco copy
Scott hecker points out a nest
Range of magellanic plover copy
Magellanic plovers on winter lake

In More Depth...

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