2017—What The Heck Is Semipalmated?

The other day on Boliver Flats in Texas with my friend Connie, I noticed a couple of birds that I thought were plovers.  When I reviewed my Sibley Guide to Birds,  I identified them as Semipalmated Plovers in breeding plumage.  I got to wondering what in the world makes this plover “semipalmated?”  What the heck does semipalmated mean?  Often the common name of birds includes a characteristic that sets them apart from other similar species.  But sometimes these names make no sense as in the “Worm-eating Warbler.”  Don’t all warblers eat worms?  But I digress.  I looked up “semipalmated” in my Funk And Wagnalls and it turns out that semipalmated refers to a bird’s foot that has incomplete webbing between its toes, i.e., not quite a duck’s foot.  The first photograph below shows the right foot of this Semipalmated Plover and it does have a minuscule web between its toes but I think there might be a better characteristic that would distinguish this species of plover from another.  The second shot shows the “semipalmated” foot a bit better but the bird was further away from me when I took the shot and the shadowy silhouettes of the birds in the background are a little distracting.


Semi-palmated plover.jpg


Semipalmated plover 2 webfoot.jpg