These small birds have rounded heads with steep foreheads and short necks. Their bills are black and they have large eyes. They have short black legs and dark gray to black feet.
As plovers mature, their feathers change. Typically, their feathers are snowy white, hence their name, with black, brown, and gray markings on wings and head. They have patches of brown or black on their shoulders.
Snowy plovers feast on beetles, flies, marine worms, crabs, clams, sand hoppers, seeds, and aquatic insects. While they search for food plovers will run, stop, look, and then peck and poke at plants and the sand. Plovers will run into swarms of flies with their bills open and snapping, trying to grab a bite.
They nest on the sand on sparsely vegetated coastal beaches and lakeshores and also nest near man-made wastewater ponds and reservoirs. They often line their sand nests with seashells.
Many sandy beaches are raked to make them attractive to humans and beach grasses are planted to control beach erosion. As a result, plovers' breeding numbers have decreased as their beach habitats and breeding areas are used for fun and recreation.
Both parents will take care of the large eggs, but females often take over day duty and the males take over at night. Newly hatched snowy plover chicks look like fluffy white cotton balls.