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American Golden-Plover Pluvialis dominica


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American Golden-Plover, on ground
credit: OW Johnson

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Charadriidae, Plovers view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE In summer, has striking black underparts, separated from golden-spangled upperparts by broad white band running from forehead to sides of neck. In winter, looks gray overall, with dark crown, and pale supercilium. ADULT FEMALE In summer is similar to male, but black elements of plumage are mottled. In winter, similar to winter male. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but with a hint of golden spangling on crown and back.

Dimensions Length: 9-11" (23-28 cm)

Habitat Fairly common breeding species in western Arctic, favoring dry tundra. Winters in southern South America, favoring dry grassland. Typically flies nonstop from Arctic to northeastern South America, then nonstop to southern South America. Fall sightings often involve juveniles. Flocks of returning migrants are sometimes seen in spring, typically in grassland and agricultural fields.

Observation Tips Most reliably found by visiting Arctic breeding grounds in summer.

Range Texas, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, New England, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Great Lakes, California, Northwest, Plains, Eastern Canada, Western Canada, Alaska

Voice Utters a mournful quee-dle.

Similar Species Pacific Golden-Plover P. fulva (L 9.75-10 in) has a shorter wingspan, but longer tertials than American, and longer bill and legs. In summer, black on underparts is usually marbled white on flanks and undertail. In other plumages, especially juvenile, looks golden-spangled on back and crown, with yellow flush to face and chest. Main breeding range is Arctic Asia, but also nests in west Alaska. Most winter in South Pacific, but small numbers occur in fall on East Coast.

Discussion Beautifully marked plover and renowned long-distance migrant. Almost unmistakable in summer plumage when entirely black underparts usually allow separation from Pacific. In other plumages, grayer, less golden-spangled upperparts are a pointer, but greater wing projection beyond tail and relatively shorter tertials are most reliable guides for separation from Pacific. Compared to larger Black-bellied, looks slim-bodied and long-legged with pronounced wing projection (wings roughly same length as tail in Black-bellied), gray underwings (black "armpits" in Black-bellied), dark rump, and only faint wing stripe. Often gregarious outside breeding season. Feeds on invertebrates and berries in summer. Sexes are separable with care in summer.