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American Golden-Plover, Glenn Bartley
Photo © Glenn Bartley

Photo: Glenn Bartley
Breeding evidence - American Golden-Plover
Breeding evidence

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American Golden-Plover
Pluvialis dominica

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
683 - 1383 m
Conserv. status:
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
1 2 1 2
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
BBS trends are not available for this species

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range Renowned as a long-distant migrant, the American Golden-Plover breeds chiefly in the Arctic biome, on the tundra from Baffin Island to western Alaska, and winters in South America. Until 1993, it was considered a subspecies of the Lesser Golden-Plover, which was split into the American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica) and the Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva) (Johnson and Connors 2010). The latter species breeds in western Alaska and eastern Siberia, and winters primarily on tropical Pacific islands. The American Golden-Plover is a rare spring and autumn migrant and localized breeder in the province (Campbell et al. 1990, British Columbia Conservation Data Centre 2014).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Atlas provided breeding evidence in two widely separated areas, one in the Northern Boreal Mountains Ecoprovince, and the other in the Central Interior Ecoprovince. These included the first confirmed breeding (fledged young) on the Itcha Range in the Chilcotin, the farthest south the species is known to breed across its entire range (Johnson and Connors 2010). The Birds of British Columbia reports the only confirmed breeding was on the Spatzizi Plateau in 1959 (six pairs, some with downy young), with possible breeding there in 1976, and on the Itcha Range in 1986. Most confirmed and possible Atlas breeding locations were in high alpine areas. These difficult-to-access habitats were understandably lightly covered by the Atlas, and the species might have a more widespread breeding distribution in the high plateaus of north and central British Columbia than the data suggest.

The British Columbia population comprises a tiny proportion of the global population (estimated at >300,000 birds), most of which breeds in arctic, boreal and alpine areas of Alaska and northern Canada (Andres et al. 2012). There are insufficient data to show any trends in the British Columbia breeding population. Intensive surveys in Alaska revealed that the population there was larger than previously expected (Andres et al. 2012). The same might be true for British Columbia, but the overall paucity of sightings suggests that this is a rare and perhaps irregular breeder in the province.

Breeding birds are found on sparsely-vegetated, well-drained, rocky slopes (Johnson and Connors 2010); in British Columbia these habitats are primarily found in high alpine tundra (typically >1,500 m). The locations of the Atlas possible or probable breeding records indicate use of relatively barren high hilltops, close to ponds and >1 km from contiguous forests.

Conservation and Recommendations The American Golden Plover is a Blue-listed species in British Columbia, due to a small breeding population. Although considered a "Species of High Concern" in the 2001-2004 Canadian and United States Shorebird Conservation Plans, new data from across the species' range suggests that the population is larger than expected and relatively stable (Clay et al. 2010, Andres et al. 2012). High alpine tundras where this species might nest in British Columbia generally face few immediate threats, although their future extent might be reduced due to forest and shrub encroachment in warming climates. Continued searching of suitable alpine and tundra habitats in northern and central British Columbia should provide better information on the status and numbers of this species.

Alan E. Burger

Recommended citation: Burger, A.E. 2015. American Golden-Plover in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [29 May 2024]

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Banner photo: Glenn Bartley