The American Golden Plover is part of the
Charadriidae family that includes the plovers of the
world including the well known Killdeer. These birds
have a very distinct plumage during the breeding season
having a black face, chest, and belly. The back of their
head, including their back and their wings is a molted
golden-brown and black color. During non-breeding season
these birds become a drab gray-brown color with a dark
cap and a lightly barred and spotted chest. Similar
species to the American Golden Plover include the
Black-bellied Plover which it is sometimes confused for
but the American Golden Plover has a dark upper tail unlike
the Black-bellied Plover and they also have a darker cap
with a gray belly.
The American Golden Plover is found high up north in the tundra of Alaska and Canada
during the breeding season.
Here, they consume the numerous insects found in the tundra during
the summer. While they are migrating and when they reach their
wintering grounds in South America the American Golden Plover will
consume a variety of clams and muscles found on muddy/sandy shores.
Nesting usually starts within weeks of the plovers
arriving in April and May with the areas pick out by males being
heavily guarded by those males. The male will scrape away a small
divot in the ground and the female will proceed to lay around four
eggs in the nest. After almost a month of brooding the eggs will
hatch into precocial chicks which will soon leave the nest and start
to forage for themselves under the watch of their parents. During
this time chicks are susceptible to becoming eaten by a predator.
Parents will help protect their chicks by giving alarm calls and the
chicks will lay flat on the ground until the danger is past. This
helps protect them because their downy feathers are well matched to
their surroundings and this help them hide from predators.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
The American Golden Plover is found only during the
migratory season where there are mud/sand flats for them to consume
prey before they leave to go farther south or north. Common areas to see
American Golden Plovers in Western New York are
Iroquois NWR, at
Lake Ontario near Brockport and just north of
Letchworth State Park.