Figure 107. This first-fall American Golden-Plover was photographed on 10 October 1988 in Goleta, Santa Barbara County. Note the relatively long projection of this bird’s primaries beyond the longest tertial and the tail (Don DesJardin).



Figure 214. This fresh juvenile American Golden-Plover—photographed on 3 October 2003 in the Tijuana River valley, San Diego County (Matt Sadowski)—shows five primary tips on the left wing, four of them distal to the longest tertial. The longest tertial of a Pacific Golden-Plover often covers all but three primary tips, but tertial length in golden-plovers can vary greatly depending on age, plumage, and molt. The relationship between primary length and tail tip (difficult to judge in this view) is generally considered to be more useful and is less susceptible to differences of plumage and molt. Note also this bird’s whitish supercilium and limited gold spangling above.






American Golden-Plover

AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER Pluvialis dominica (Müller, 1776)

Accepted: 0

Treated in Appendix H: yes

Not accepted: 0

Years reviewed by CBRC: 2004 through present

Not submitted/reviewed: 0

Large color image: see Figures

This plover breeds across the tundra of North America, from western Alaska to southern Baffin Island, and winters in southern South America. Most fall migrants head south from the Atlantic Provinces and the Northeast over the Atlantic Ocean to South America, and most migrate north in spring through mainland Mexico and the North American interior (from the Rocky Mts. east to the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys). The species is an uncommon to rare migrant across North America outside of its main migration routes, with extralimital records extending to the offshore Bering Sea, Baja California Peninsula, Greenland, Iceland, Europe, and Australia.

Franklin J. Smith collected California’s first American Golden-Plover, a first-fall male, on 10 September 1922 “in field near Mad River Slough” (i.e., Arcata bottoms), Humboldt County (MVZ 144967). Fatefully, the specimen tag also gives the locality as “Eureka.” Abbott (1927) reported that the “Mad River Slough” specimen was among “a small consignment of bird skins recently purchased by the San Diego Society of Natural History,” but it was not cataloged into the museum’s collection along with the other specimens he mentioned (fide P. Unitt) and instead wound up at MVZ (see above). Apparently, this change in the specimen’s destination led Grinnell and Miller (1944; and in all likelihood Miller, after Grinnell’s death in 1939) to suggest that Smith collected two golden-plovers in Humboldt County on that day—one at Eureka and another at Mad River Slough (the latter bird was, naturally, “not now verifiable as to subspecies”). But all evidence indicates that only a single bird was involved.

Because the American and Pacific (P. fulva) Golden-Plovers were regarded as conspecific until recently (Connors 1983, Connors et al. 1993, AOU 1993), and because they can be difficult to separate in the field, some questions remain concerning the status and distribution of each in California. The current understanding can be summarized as follows: Adults of both species arrive in July to early August, with first-fall dominica arriving in late August through September and first-fall fulva arriving in September and October; fulva is thought to be more closely associated with coastal areas, but confirmation of this is needed. Winter records pertain exclusively to fulva, dominica having usually passed through the state by mid October or, possibly, November. Both species are very rare in spring. Patten et al. (2003) used the words “clouded and uncertain” to describe the status of these species at the Salton Sea, but characterized dominica as being “decidedly the more frequent of the two golden-plovers” elsewhere in the interior Southwest.

During the CBRC’s January 2004 meeting, members expressed concern that dominica was being over-reported and that it might be quite rare in the state. For example, 16 records of dominica that Pyle and Henderson (1991) listed from Southeast Farallon I. were later reassigned to fulva or the species-pair, leaving only five published records of dominica from this well-worked vagrant trap (Richardson et al. 2003). The Committee decided to review records of dominica in order to encourage the emergence of a firmer understanding of both species’ status in California. Appendix H lists a dozen accepted records from 2004–2006.

Johnson and Johnson (2004) and Jaramillo (2004) recently addressed the identification of golden-plovers.