Photo: Robert Royse/Vireo

American Golden-Plover

Pluvialis dominica

A trim, elegant plover. Swift and graceful in flight, probably one of the fastest fliers among shorebirds, and with good reason: it migrates every year from Arctic Alaska and Canada to southern South America. Flocks of northbound migrants, in their striking spring plumage, are seen mostly in the heartland of our continent, on the Great Plains and the Mississippi Valley; there they often forage in open fields and prairies, far from water.
Conservation status Huge numbers were shot in late 19th century, and population apparently has never recovered to historic levels. May be limited now by loss of habitat on South American wintering range.
Family Plovers
Habitat Prairies, mudflats, shores; tundra (summer). During migration, usually found on short-grass prairies, flooded pastures, plowed fields; less often on mudflats, beaches. Breeds on Arctic tundra. In western Alaska, where it overlaps with Pacific Golden-Plover, the American tends to nest at higher elevations, on more barren tundra slopes.
A trim, elegant plover. Swift and graceful in flight, probably one of the fastest fliers among shorebirds, and with good reason: it migrates every year from Arctic Alaska and Canada to southern South America. Flocks of northbound migrants, in their striking spring plumage, are seen mostly in the heartland of our continent, on the Great Plains and the Mississippi Valley; there they often forage in open fields and prairies, far from water.
Photo Gallery
  • adult female, breeding
  • juvenile
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • juvenile
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult male, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Typically they walk or run a few steps and then pause, then move forward again, pecking at the ground whenever they spot something edible.


Eggs

4, sometimes 3. Pale buff to cinnamon, boldly blotched with black and brown, well camouflaged when seen against varied tundra vegetation. Incubation is by both parents, about 26-27 days. Male reportedly incubates by day, female at night. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Age at first flight about 22-24 days.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Age at first flight about 22-24 days.

Diet

Mostly insects. On breeding grounds, apparently feeds mostly on insects, including flies, beetles, and others, also some snails and seeds. In migration in open fields, eats wide variety of insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, larvae of beetles. On shores, also feeds on small crustaceans and mollusks. In late summer, may eat many berries.


Nesting

Males perform flight display over breeding territory by flying high, with exaggerated slow, deep wingbeats, while repeatedly giving a short kt-dlink call. In courtship, male walks up to female in crouching posture with tail raised, neck stretched forward. Nest site is on ground on very open, dry tundra. Nest (probably built by male) is shallow depression in tundra, lined with lichens, moss, grass, leaves.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Northward migration in spring is mostly through Great Plains. In fall, most birds apparently make nonstop flight from eastern Canada to northern South America; some pause along our Atlantic Coast, especially after storms with northeast winds.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Northward migration in spring is mostly through Great Plains. In fall, most birds apparently make nonstop flight from eastern Canada to northern South America; some pause along our Atlantic Coast, especially after storms with northeast winds.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A mellow quee-lee-la.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Plovers Sandpiper-like Birds

American Golden-Plover

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
Zoom InOut

Explore Similar Birds