Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Ornithologists have determined that the three populations of golden-plovers are actually three distinct species—where they overlap, they do not interbreed.

The first photo is of an American Golden-Plover. Older field guides refer to this bird as the Lesser Golden-Plover. In the photograph, note that the under-tail feathers and the flanks are black in this breeding-plumaged bird. In the other two species, these areas are either white or splotchy. The fact that this picture was taken in South Dakota also supports an identification of American Golden-Plover, as the other two species are rarely found inland.

The second photo is of a Pacific Golden-Plover. This shorebird used to be considered a race of the American Golden-plover. The Pacific occurs in greater numbers than the American and breeds in western Alaska and eastern Siberia. Both species winter in South America. In the United States, Pacific Golden-Plovers migrate along our Pacific Coast. A few winter in California, like this bird that I found on the beach at La Jolla. The prominent dark ear spot helps to distinguish winter-plumaged Pacific Golden-Plovers. Their backs are also brighter than American Golden-Plovers, which have duller backs (which can lead to confusion with Black-bellied Plovers). The fact that American Golden-Plovers are unknown from our country in the winter also helps with identification.

The third species is called the European (or Greater) Golden-Plover. I have listed it in France, but I lack a photograph. The species is occasionally reported from Newfoundland and Greenland but not elsewhere in North America.

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