American Golden Plover

Pluvialis dominica

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This medium-sized bird can be identified by its long, elegant body and eye-catching plumage. Adult birds have black faces and bellies trimmed with a white band. The backs, necks and crown of the head are black flecked with gold. The bird’s legs are long, slender and black in color. Adults can reach a maximum length of 10.5 inches (26.6 cm) with a wingspan of about two feet (61 cm).

The bird typically feeds on invertebrates (flies, beetles and grasshoppers), leaves, berries and seeds. It will forage mostly in low vegetation, moving in a quick halting motion. Upon spotting prey, it will quickly snap it up with the bill. Although often referred to as a shorebird, it can be found in inland areas of both North and South America during its migration, often feeding in farmland or open fields.

Range and Habitat

The plover breeds in the arctic tundra areas of Alaska and Canada, where they build their nests on the ground and line them with lichens and dried grass. They have a very long migration route during the winter months and can be found as far south as southern South America. The bird is an infrequent migrant to Oregon but can sometimes be spotted along the shoreline, in meadows or near mudflats.

Conservation Status

Common. The bird was heavily hunted for sport during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, causing its population to plummet. Its numbers have now rebounded to healthy levels.