Bird of the Week, October 19, 2012
American Golden-Plover


American Golden-Plover by Middleton Evans


The American Golden-Plover is a medium-sized to large shorebird with a short neck, large rounded head, and stubby-looking bill. Adults are spotted gold-and-black on the crown, back, and wings. Their faces and necks are black with a white border; they also have black breasts. This bird was once considered the same species as the very similar Pacific Golden-Plover, but the two were split in 1993.


This species makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any shorebird, flying between 6,000 and 11,000 miles each way between wintering and breeding areas. It follows a circular route; offshore from the East Coast of North America nonstop to South America in the fall, returning through the middle of North America to its Arctic breeding grounds in the spring.


By the early 20th Century, excessive market and sport hunting had taken a devastating toll on this bird. Its population rebounded after most hunting was stopped, but has never regained its original abundance. Hunting still occurs in some Caribbean countries, and habitat loss due to agriculture, ranching, pollution, and development on the wintering grounds and along migratory routes continue to be a threat.


Although not considered threatened, the American Golden-Plover would still benefit from habitat preservation, additional research, international shorebird educational programs, and regulation enforcement aimed at stopping uncontrolled Caribbean hunting.



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Photo: Middleton Evans; Range Map, NatureServe