Click on the next bird, same species and yet so different. It's fooled me in the past on trying to id it. This is just one of our many plovers that visit the Gulf Coast region every year.
Here is what All About Birds says about the Black-bellied Plover
In breeding plumage, Black-bellied Plovers are a dazzling mix of snow white and jet black, accented by checkerboard wings. They are supreme aerialists, both agile and swift, and are readily identified at great distance by black axillaries (“armpit” feathers) in all plumages—and by their distinctive, mournful-sounding call. The largest and heaviest of North American plovers, Black-bellied is also the hardiest, breeding farther north than other species, at the very top of the world. It is also a very widespread shorebird, occurring on six continents.
Plovers as a group spend their lives on the ground, running along beaches and flats in search of food. But in tropical areas of the Caribbean and northern South America, wintering Black-bellied Plovers may surprise you by roosting together in mangrove trees or on posts.
Wary and quick to give alarm calls, the Black-bellied Plover acts as a sentinel for groups of foraging shorebirds worldwide. Its quickness to sound the alarm allowed it to resist market hunters during the heyday of shorebird hunting, and the species remained common while other species crashed.
The Black-bellied Plover is the only American plover that has a hind toe on its foot—although the toe is so small it’s hard to see in the field.
Photographed on the Bolivar Peninsular.
Look carefully at a bare, brown field, especially in winter, and you may be surprised to see it crawling with little brown shapes. When they turn, you may see a neat yellow face, black mask, and tiny black “horns” waving in the breeze. Horned Larks are widespread songbirds of fields, deserts, and tundra, where they forage for seeds and insects, and sing a high, tinkling song. Though they are still common, they have undergone a sharp decline in the last half-century.
Horned Larks inhabit an extensive elevation range, from sea level to an altitude of 13,000 feet. Linnaeus named this bird Alauda alpestris: “lark of the mountains” (it has since been moved to the genus Eremophila).
Female Horned Larks often collect “pavings”—pebbles, clods, corncobs, dung—which they place beside their nests, covering soil excavated from the nest cavity. The “paved” area resembles a sort of walkway, though the birds don’t seem to use it that way. While nobody fully understands the function of these pavings, they may help prevent collected nesting material from blowing away while the nest is under construction.
When she is ready to mate, a female Horned Lark performs a courting display that looks very much as if she is taking a dust bath. In fact, potential mates seem prone to confusion on this score: a male catching a glimpse of a dust-bathing female may attempt to mate with her.
Photographed on the Bolivar Flats about three years ago
With rufous and gold markings on the head and wings, breeding adult Western Sandpipers are the most colorful of the tiny North American sandpipers known as “peeps.” This abundant shorebird gathers in flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands in California and Alaska during spring migration. It’s among the continent’s great wildlife spectacles, particularly when they fly up and wheel about, exercising their wings (or fleeing from falcons on the hunt) before flying to remote nesting grounds in the Arctic.
Like many sandpiper species, Western Sandpiper females have longer bills than males and are generally larger. In the populations of Western Sandpipers that winter farthest south, females outnumber males, while the reverse is true in the northern parts of the winter range.
In migration, the Western Sandpiper stages in huge, spectacular flocks, particularly along the Pacific coast at San Francisco Bay and in the Copper River Delta in Alaska. Estimates suggest that nearly the whole breeding population passes through the Copper River Delta during just a few weeks each spring.
Many of the Western Sandpipers that winter in Central America remain there for the first summer of their lives, rather than migrating north to breed. By contrast, birds of the same age that winter in the United States or Mexico usually attempt to return to the breeding grounds in their first spring.
Western Sandpipers compete with many other sandpiper species when foraging. When larger Dunlin are absent, Western Sandpipers forage at the edge of the receding or advancing tide, where prey is easiest to catch. When Dunlin are present, Westerns often forage on drier areas of mud.