The Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus) is a shorebird species endemic to the dry, terrestrial ecosystems of the Great Plains and southwestern United States. Breeding Bird Survey data suggest that Mountain Plover populations have declined by >60% in the last 30 years. A better understanding of the population dynamics of the Mountain Plover is important in determining future management goals for this species. However, this effort is hampered by the inability to determine the sex of Mountain Plovers accurately under field conditions. In an effort to develop a simple method for sexing plovers in the hand, we measured external morphometric characteristics from 190 museum specimens of adult Mountain Plovers in alternate (breeding) plumage. Logistic regression and discriminant function analyses were performed on 10 external morphometric measurements (lengths of unflattened wing chord, 10th primary, central rectrix, outer rectrix, total head length, exposed culmen, culmen, bill depth, bill width, and tarsus). The results of these analyses indicated that Mountain Plover sexes were similar for all measures except culmen length. However, further analysis determined that culmen length accurately predicted sex in less than two-thirds of the specimens, suggesting that this measure is a poor predictor of sex in Mountain Plovers. Structurally, Mountain Plovers appear to be nearly identical between the sexes, and other methods of sexing birds (e.g., plumage characteristics, behavioral observations, or molecular markers) should be further assessed for devising a simple method for sexing Mountain Plovers under field conditions.
Iko, William M.; Dinsmore, Stephen J.; and Knopf, Fritz L.
"Evaluating the use of morphometric measurements from museum specimens for sex determination in Mountain Plovers (Charadrius montanus),"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 64
, Article 9.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol64/iss4/9