Pluvialis dominica P. L. S. Mьller, 1776. Monotypic.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: American lesser golden-plover; French: Pluvier dorй d’ Amйrique, Pluvier bronzй; German: Sibirischer, Goldenregenpfeifer; Spanish: Chorlito Dorado Americano.
9.5–11 in (24–28 cm); weight quite variable, ranging from about 3.5 to 7 oz (99–198 g), with post-migration weights much lower. During breeding season, upperparts are black; yellowish edgings on the feathers of the upperparts give the birds a golden-spangled appearance. The forehead and sides of the neck are white. Face and underparts are black. In winter it is speckled brown above with pale underparts.
Across Canada and Alaska in tundra habitats; possibly on Chukoctskiy Peninsula, Wrangel Island, and Herald Island in Russia. Winter in grasslands of South America south to northern Argentina and Uruguay. May winter in Central America and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America, with most records from Florida. It is difficult to distinguish records of migratory stragglers from winter residents. Rarely individuals remain on the wintering grounds throughout the year. Often found outside its normal range with reported occurrences along western African coast, the Netherlands, Ireland, Okinawa, New Guinea, and New Zealand.
Most common in the Arctic and sub-Arctic tundra and favors rocky slopes with scattered low vegetation for breeding. A variegated surface of rocks, gravel, lichen, and vegetation is preferred. Moves young to wetter areas with more shrubs and grasses for cover. During migration, found in a variety of open habitats, including inland and coastal areas. Winter primarily on grasslands of South America and less commonly on the coastal wetlands. Agricultural lands are not used.
Apparently migrate in small flocks, although large spring buildups are known from northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois with reports of more than 25,000 birds. Rapid fliers capable of long-distance flights. Flight speed may exceed 112 mph (180 kph). Some individuals establish small winter territories. Nonterritorial individuals maintain individual spacing through lowlevel aggression. Wintering birds typically form communal roosts. Occasionally gather in large flocks at freshwater wetlands on wintering grounds to drink and bathe. Solitary nesters, but often forage in communal groups away from the breeding territory.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Feeds on a variety of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates. Also some berries, seeds, and vegetation. Runs, stops, and pecks as is typical of foraging in plovers. Also pecks small invertebrates off of leaf surfaces.
Most breed in the first year. Males, but not females, exhibit strong fidelity to breeding territories, which are large and defended by aerial displays and vocalizations. Formation of new pair bond is more common than retention of a mate from the previous season. Nests are shallow scrapes sparsely lined with lichens and/or dry grasses, pebbles, and leaves. Four eggs are laid. Both sexes incubate eggs and care for young. Males usually incubate during the day and females at night. Distraction displays, including false brooding, are given. Adults may attack some avian and mammalian predators, including foxes. May renest, but raise only a single brood. Incubation is about 26 days. Hatching is fairly synchronous (usually one day) and earlier hatched young forage near nest while attentive adult incubates.
In 2002, populations appear stable, but populations declined drastically due to extensive hunting during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For example, 48,000 were shot in a single day in Louisiana in 1821, and birds could be purchased for 25 cents a dozen in Maine in the 1850s. Populations rebounded with enactment of protective laws. Currently serious threats are probably loss of habitat in wintering areas due to agricultural and human encroachment. Pesticide exposure may also be a problem.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Hunted in Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Barbados.
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