Appearance of the American Golden Plover
The American Golden Plover is an excellent example of a widely distributed species, migrating between North and South America. The birds have a striking appearance with a golden orange color on the back and wings, and wide white stripes divided by dusky black plumage on their heads and backs. They are medium-sized, averaging between 7-9 inches in length, and have a wingspan of about 20 inches. In flight, the American Golden Plover can be identified by its sharp black primaries and broad, white-tipped wings.
Behavior of the American Golden Plover
The American Golden Plover is a highly nomadic species and will migrate up to 30,000 miles each year in search of prime breeding grounds. Their migratory patterns are complicated but generally, they will spend the breeding season in the high Arctic tundra region of North America or Eurasia and fly south for the winter months. On their journey, members of the species are known to make stopovers in surprisingly remote locations such as oceanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic.
In their natural environment, the American Golden Plover is most active during twilight and dawn, preferring to stay close to the ground at night and take flight during the day in search of food. Clumped flocks of 25-50 individuals are common, however, particularly during the winter months when their population sizes rapidly decline due to their migration habits.
Feeding Habits of the American Golden Plover
The American Golden Plover has an omnivorous diet, feasting on both plants and animals. On the tundra, the plovers will feed on insects, including grasshoppers, beetles, flies, and even caterpillars. Further south, they will also consume small rodents, snails, crustaceans, and even eggs curated by other species.
Their feeding behavior is distinctive—they will peck and probe the ground while simultaneously running around in circles, then stop and stand briefly to swallow the food. This “run and peck” technique allows them to quickly digest their food while they are in flight.
Breeding Habits of the American Golden Plover
The American Golden Plover breeds in open tundra regions north of the Arctic Circle. Breeding typically occurs between May and early June, when the ice melts and temperatures become mild. During this period, males establish their territorial claim by singing in order to attract a mate.
The female will lay a single clutch of eggs in a shallow scrape on the ground, with both parents taking part in the incubation process. Once hatched, the chicks are highly precocial, able to feed and walk within minutes of their birth. The young birds will stay with the parents for protection until their first migration season.
Conservation of the American Golden Plover
The American Golden Plover is an incredibly resilient species, able to endure extreme temperatures and often harsh weather conditions throughout its migrations. As a result, their population size is quite healthy and constant, with an estimated 1,800,000 -1,900,000 individuals.
Despite the fact that their global population size appears to be stable, their numbers have declined in recent years due to the destruction of their habitat at the hands of humans. As such, there is an ongoing effort to safeguard important migratory stopover sites, especially those located in threatened habitats. The American Bird Conservatory has also taken part in the All Species Inventory initiative, which seeks to protect all migratory birds by making their habitat protected areas.
All in all, the American Golden Plover is an incredible species—in spite of their vulnerability to threats such as human-induced habitat destruction, their global population size remains stable, a testimony to their strength and resilience. As long as conservation measures continue to be in place, the American Golden Plover will remain an iconic species for many generations to come.
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