American Golden-Plover

Pluvialis dominica

  • Authors: Johnson, Oscar W. and Peter G. Connors
  • Revisors: Johnson, Oscar W.
  • Published: Dec 22, 2010

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Fig. 1. Distribution of American Golden-Plover in North America.

Distribution of American Golden-Plovers in North America. There are a few records of wintering American Golden-Plovers from the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the U.S. The main winter ranges is located in other regions of the world (see Distribution).

Adult male American Golden-Plover on breeding territory, Churchill, MB, 23 June.

Note solid black flanks, typically whitish in male Pacific Golden-Plover., Jun 24, 2014; photographer Glenn Bartley

Adult female American Golden-Plover incubating, Churchill, MB, 10 July.

Females typically have whitish cheeks and necks in breeding plumage., Jul 11, 2014; photographer Andy Johnson

Juvenile American Golden-Plover, Forsythe NWR, NJ, 8 November.

Overall grayish below compared with the warmer buffy tones of Pacific Golden-Plover. Also not smallish bill and shorter legs., Nov 09, 2013; photographer Jim Paris

Editor’s Note (May 2017): Maps, rich media, and text have been updated to reflect a taxonomic change/split for this species. This species account is being edited and may contain content from an earlier version of the account.

The Golden Plover is an aristocrat among birds. Everything about it is distinctive. The jet black breast and belly, the golden yellow back and striking head markings of the breeding plumage would in themselves be enough to set it apart in any assemblage of its relatives. In addition it has rather stately and dignified movements in contrast to the darting hasty nervousness of so many shorebirds whether feeding, migrating or on the breeding grounds. The downy chicks are also among the loveliest of all young birds, their yellow backs being startlingly different from the usual blacks, browns and grays affected by most newly hatched youngsters of the shorebird clan.

Gabrielson and Lincoln 1959, The Birds of Alaska

American Golden-plovers are conspicuous breeding birds on North American and Asian tundras, and by their extensive migrations they link these regions with a vast area of the world. The morphologically similar American Golden-plovers and Pacific Golden-plovers were formerly regarded as subspecies. Decisive studies on sympatric breeding grounds have shown no hybridization between the two and led to their reclassification as full species (American Ornithologists' Union 1993). Text may apply to both species, unless specified otherwise.

The American Golden-Plover nests from Baffin Island, Canada, to the eastern edge of Siberia and winters in South America. Breeding grounds of American and Pacific golden-plovers converge in the Bering Strait region, with the Pacific Golden-Plover common in western Alaska and the American Golden-Plover rare in eastern Siberia. Migrations often involve long, nonstop, transoceanic flights.

Nests are shallow scrapes lined with lichens, and clutches typically contain four eggs. Both sexes incubate and care for the young. There is strong male-biased fidelity to specific breeding territories in successive seasons. Territories are large (10–50 ha); are defined by aerial displays and vocalizations of males; and are defended by both members of the pair (especially the male) against conspecifics, congeners, and other intruders. Individuals are often territorial on their wintering grounds.

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Oscar W. and Peter G. Connors. 2010. American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.