American Golden Plover

American Golden Plover

American golden-plover, Lesser golden plover

Pluvialis dominica
Population size
Life Span
8-15 yrs
96.6 km/h
122-194 g
23-30 cm
45-66 cm

The American golden plover is a medium-sized wading bird that makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any shorebird. The breeding male has a black face, neck, breast, and belly, with a white crown and nape that extends to the side of the breast. The back is mottled black and white with pale, gold spots. The breeding female is similar, but with less black. When in winter plumage, both sexes have grey-brown upperparts, pale gray-brown underparts, and a whitish eyebrow. The American golden plover looks very similar to the Pacific golden plover with which it was once considered the same species under the name "lesser golden plover".


American golden plovers breed from northern Canada and Alaska and winter in southern South America. The breeding habitat of these birds is Arctic tundra with low vegetation. During migration and on wintering grounds they can be found in prairie, pastures, meadows, plowed fields, coastal marshes, mudflats, and shorelines.

American Golden Plover habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

American golden plovers are social birds especially during migrations when they gather in large flocks. They also sleep together in communal roosts in salt-marshes or other areas near water. These birds forage for food on tundra, fields, beaches, and tidal flats, usually by sight. They feed by walking and running with brief stops pecking at the ground whatever they can find. American golden plovers communicate with the help of various calls. Their main call sounds as 'klii-i' or 'klu-iit'. During the flight they usually make a shrill 'ku-whiip'.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

American golden plovers are carnivores (insectivores) and feed mainly on insects, crustaceans, and worms. They will also supplement their diet with berries, seeds, and occasionally grass.

Mating Habits

26-27 days
4 eggs

American golden plovers are monogamous and form pair bonds that last for several years. They nest in loose colonies and during the breeding season become highly territorial, displaying aggressively to neighbors. American golden plovers use scrape nests and line them with lichens, grass, and leaves. Females lay a clutch of 4 white to buff eggs that are heavily blotched with both black and brown spots. The eggs are incubated for a period of 26 to 27 days, with the male incubating during the day and the female during the night. The chicks then hatch precocial, leaving the nest within hours and feeding themselves within a day. They are able to fly at around 22-23 days old and soon after that become independent.


Population threats

In the late 19th century large numbers of these birds have suffered from overhunting and the population has never fully recovered. At present, the main threat to American golden plovers is habitat loss on their migratory routes and wintering grounds due to agriculture and urbanization. Other threats include the use of pesticides, pollution, storms during migration, and predators such as birds of prey.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the American golden plover is more than 200,000 individuals. The population in Russia consists of less than 100 breeding pairs and less than 50 individuals on migration. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The genus name of the American golden plover comes from Latin and means 'relating to rain', from pluvia, 'rain'. It was believed that golden plovers flocked when rain was imminent. Their name 'dominica' refers to Santo Domingo, now Hispaniola (an island in the Caribbean archipelago), in the West Indies.
  • American golden plovers perform one of the longest known migratory routes of over 40,000 km (25,000 mi). Of this, 3,900 km (2,400 mi) is over open ocean where they cannot stop to feed or drink. The birds do this from body fat stores that they stock up on prior to the flight.
  • It is thought that American golden plovers are capable of maintaining seeds in their digestive tract which then help them survive during long flights.
  • American golden plovers are considered the fastest flying shorebird that is able to reach speeds of 60 mph (96.6 km/h).
  • A comparison of dates and migratory patterns leads to the conclusion that Eskimo curlews and American golden plovers were the most likely shorebirds to have attracted the attention of Christopher Columbus to the nearby Americas; this happened in early October 1492, after 65 days at sea out of sight of land.


1. American Golden Plover on Wikipedia -
2. American Golden Plover on The IUCN Red List site -

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