Sunday, September 8, 2013

American Golden-Plover

On Saturday noon I drove 40 miles south to Steele County, where state birding listservs reported a huge flock of American Golden-Plovers. After several miles’ searching, I found the promised field filled with a flock of about 800 birds. In this first photo, some plovers are loitering in front of the first pond, but about 100 more are feeding behind the water.
The next photo gives you an impression of the huge number of birds as the flock was spooked by a Northern Harrier and an over-flight by a Peregrine Falcon. I was not able to get all the flying birds into my photo frame.
A few birds flew closer to me. In the final photo, note that the under-wings are white, not black. These white axillars are one of the field marks of golden-plovers. These birds are browner above than the much grayer-backed Black-bellied Plover. Few retrain the black bellies of breeding golden-plovers, although a few are black speckled. Note the bird on the far left in the bottom photo.
Such a large flock like this one is uncommon in Minnesota in the fall. American Golden-Plovers have an elliptical migratory pattern. They usually fly off the Atlantic Coast, often nonstop from James Bay to South America (some go all the way to Tierra del Fuego). In the spring, they return through the central United States.

Some birds, especially juveniles and a few adults do make their fall migration through the Great Plains, while fewer still work their way down the Pacific Coast. The fall migration is lengthy—juveniles depart their arctic breeding grounds (along with unsuccessful breeders) much earlier than do breeding adults. In fact, the first birds arrive in South America long before the last birds leave the tundra (Johnson and Connors 2010).

1 comment:

  1. What a sight! I have yet to see an American Golden Plover. Thanks for the education on the migration routes - this truly was a special find.