Return to Main Page   Dakota Birder Blog    

American Golden Plover

Pluvialis dominica

Length: 10 - 11 inches Wingspan: 18 - 22 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: In summer, dark below, dark face, white stripe over eye extending down the neck, dark upperparts with dappled golden spots

American Golden Plover - Pluvialis dominicaThe American Golden Plover is one of the longest-distance migrants, summering on the Arctic Tundra, and wintering in southern South America. They are most commonly found in South Dakota during the spring migration, as most fall birds fly directly from eastern Canada to South America. However, small numbers are sometimes found during the fall migration in the state. 

While large flocks can sometimes be seen during the spring migration, American Golden Plover were once much more common than it is presently. Hunting pressure in the 19th century and habitat loss since then have presented challenges for the species. Recent trends have again started to show a decline in overall numbers, although there are no serious conservation concerns yet.


During migration through South Dakota, generally found on plowed fields and prairies with short or grazed grass.  They are only occasionally found on mudflats and marshy areas.  Breeds on the Arctic Tundra in summer.


Primarily feeds on insects.  Will also feed on seeds, small crustaceans, small mollusks, and occasionally berries.


Often found foraging on the ground in plowed fields and other agricultural land, as well as heavily grazed areas. 


The nest of an American Golden Plover is a shallow scrape on the ground in the tundra, lined with mosses and other bits of vegetation.  Three or four eggs are laid, tightly placed in a circle in the nest to aid retention of warmth.  Males incubate the eggs during the day, while females incubate them at night. The young hatch after about 4 weeks.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of American Golden Plover sightings

Song: The primary call is a loud, rich whistling quee-dol

1Click here to hear the alarm calls of an American Golden Plover

2Click here to hear another calling American Golden Plover

3Click here to hear the interaction calls of three American Golden Plover on their breeding grounds


 A long-distance migrant, summering in the Arctic Tundra, and wintering in South America. American Golden Plovers could be seen in either spring or fall migration in South Dakota, but they are generally more common in the spring.

Similar Species:

American Golden Plovers are potentially confused with other plover species, including at least one that may also be found as a migrant in South Dakota.

South Dakota "Hotspot"

Numbers migrating through South Dakota seem to vary substantially from year to year.  There's no reliable location to always find them, but they often are found in wet or flooded farm fields during the spring migration. They can also be found near shallow water with nearby mudflats.

Conservation Status:  

Populations were decimated due to 19th-century hunting pressures.  Numbers have never recovered to historical levels, and diminishing habitat in their South American wintering grounds is possibly causing further declines, as systematic surveys record a declining trend in recent  years. Despite the declines, populations still are relatively strong, they are found across a broad geographic area, and they are relatively common in parts of their range. The IUCN considers the American Golden Plover to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

1) BirdWeb - American Golden Plover

2) Audubon - American Golden Plover

3) WhatBird - American Golden Plover

Photo Information:

Photo taken on May 12th, 2018 - Lincoln County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Audio File Credits:

1Patrik Aberg. Recorded near Nome, Alaska on June 6th, 2017. Original recording and information available from xeno-canto.

2Frank Lambert. Recorded in Valdez-Cordova County, Alaska on June 8th, 2015. Original recording and information available from xeno-canto.

2Andrew Spencer. Recorded near Nome, Alaska on May 25th, 2013. Original recording and information available from xeno-canto.

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - American Golden Plover
South Dakota Status: Common spring and uncommon fall migrant in the eastern half of the state, rare to accidental migrant in the western half
Additional American Golden Plover Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos