American Golden Plover


Common Name: American Golden Plover

Class:  Aves

Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Charadriidae

Genus: Pulvialis

Species: Pulvialis dominica



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.




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.


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.