American Golden-Plover

Pluvialis dominica

  • Version: 3.1 — Published October 15, 2019
  • Oscar W. Johnson, Peter G. Connors, and Peter Pyle

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Figure 1. Distribution of American Golden-Plover in North and Central America.

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

Definitive Alternate (breeding) American Golden-Plover.

Medium-sized plover, similar in appearance to the Pacific Golden-Plover. Note white neck stripe that terminates abruptly at upper breast, which is characteristic in Alternate plumage. Projection of primaries past tail can be useful to differentiate from Pacific Golden-Plover in all plumages.

© Eric Gofreed , Alaska , United States , 15 June 2017
Juvenile American Golden-Plover.

In all plumages, appears slim with primaries projecting well past tail. Head is dovelike. Aged by relatively crisp and uniform pattern on upper- and underparts. Brightest juveniles may show wash of gold, especially on crown, mantle, and rump.

© Dan Lory , Michigan , United States , 11 September 2017

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 (1)

The American Golden-Plover is a conspicuous breeding bird on the tundras of North America. The species nests from Baffin Island, Canada to western Alaska. The breeding grounds converge with those of the very similar Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva) in the Bering Strait region, with the Pacific Golden-Plover being common on both sides of the Bering Strait, and the American Golden-Plover being rare in extreme eastern Siberia. Migratory movements between their North American breeding grounds and overwintering areas in South America include lengthy nonstop transoceanic flights coupled with transcontinental pathways. Overwintering occurs primarily on the pampas of Argentina and the campos of Uruguay. Many individuals defend small feeding territories on the overwintering grounds.

There is strong male-biased fidelity to specific breeding territories over successive seasons. Territories are large (10–50 ha) and defined by aerial displays and vocalizations of males and defended by both members of the pair (especially the male) against conspecifics, congeners, and other intruders. Nests are shallow scrapes lined with lichens, and clutches typically contain 4 eggs. Both sexes incubate and care for the young.

Recommended Citation

Johnson, O. W., P. G. Connors, and P. Pyle (2019). American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica), version 3.1. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.