A plover of the Americas, the American golden plover is a vagrant to New Zealand where it has been seen only in non-breeding plumage. It is separable from the more common Pacific golden plover in New Zealand only after close and careful observation. There are two accepted records, from Karikari Peninsula in January 1991, and Little Waihi and Maketu, Bay of Plenty, in January-February 2011.
The American golden plover is almost identical to the Pacific golden plover, but is slightly larger, longer-winged and with subtle plumage differences, including a bolder pale eyebrow. In breeding plumage it has the same combination of golden yellow-and-brown mottled upperparts of the Pacific golden plover and pure black underparts, but can have more extensive black on flanks and vent than the Pacific golden plover. In juvenile and non-breeding plumage it is virtually identical except it can have a more pronounced whitish eyebrow and present an overall greyer plumage than Pacific golden plover. Key characters to check are the relative length of the folded wing compared to the tail (wing 12-22 mm longer than tail in American golden plover, 0-9 mm longer in Pacific golden plover), how far the primaries project past the tertials in the folded wing (4-5 primary tips beyond tertials in American golden plover, 2-3 primary tips in Pacific golden plover), and how far the tertials reach in relation to the tail (tertials reach almost to the tail tip in Pacific golden plover, usually shorter than this in American golden plover).
Voice: Similar to Pacific golden plover.
Similar species: Pacific golden plover is the most common Pluvialis species to visit New Zealand and is difficult to separate from American golden plover (see above). The grey plover is larger and greyer than the “golden plovers” in all plumages, and has black ‘armpits’, a white rump, and a white partial wingbar all visible in flight.
Distribution and habitat
American golden plovers breed in the Nearctic from western Alaska east through northern Canada to Baffin Island. They leave the breeding grounds in August (adults preceding juveniles) and migrate largely via Hudson and James Bay, Gulf of Mexico and the Antilles to southern South America, arriving in September. The return migration begins in February in Argentina and continues to North American prairies in March-May and arriving at breeding grounds in May-June.
Breeding habitat is tundra, whereas wintering habitat in South America is short-grassed fields, prairies, ploughed land, wetlands, sandflats and mudflats. In New Zealand birds have associated with Pacific golden plovers on short-turf pasture and/or saltmarsh and dunes on the edge of large tidal flats.
Common in the Americas, vagrant to New Zealand.
New Zealand records
The only accepted records are Karikari Peninsula, Northland (January 1991), and Kaituna/Little Waihi, Bay of Plenty (January-February 2011); probably also Farewell Spit (2 birds, November 1981), Pollen Island, Auckland (January 1989), and Ahuriri Estuary, Hawke’s Bay (March 2011).
In Alaska and Canada, American golden plovers breed on tundra with short vegetation and lichens. The nest is a scrape lined with moss, lichen and leaves; 3, or more often 4 eggs are laid.
Behaviour and ecology
In New Zealand birds have associated closely with Pacific golden plovers.
Diet not known from New Zealand, but likely to include similar invertebrate prey to that of birds in the Americas and probably also similar diet to varied invertebrate foods of Pacific golden plover in New Zealand.
Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of the northern hemisphere. Christopher Helm, London.
Cramp, S.; Simmons, K.E.L. (eds) 1983. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa;The birds of the western Palearctic. Vol. 3, waders to gulls. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Guest, R. 1992. Rare bird reports in 1991. Notornis 39: 319-321.
Hayman, P.; Marchant, J.; Prater, A.J. 1986. Shorebirds; an identification guide to waders of the world. Christopher Helm, London.
Heather, B.D.; Robertson, H.A. 2005. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. 2nd edition. Penguin: Rosedale, Auckland.
Marchant, S.; Higgins, P.J. (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol. 2, raptors to lapwings. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Pierce, R.J. 2013 [updated 2015]. American golden plover. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz
American golden plover
- Breeding season
- Egg laying dates