I was heading down the Crane Lake Road last weekend when all of a sudden I saw some sort of shorebird on the side of the road. I did a quick u-turn and pulled off the road. There to my surprise I found an American Golden Plover!
I would like to Thank the kind gentleman that pulled over to see if everything was ok. I may have forgotten to thank him in my haste to get out my camera equipment. That’s one thing that is so great about living up here, if you’re parked on the side of the road, people will often stop and ask if all is ok.
Usually you will find Golden Plovers in small flocks, but this bird was all alone.
These are amazing birds, they breed up north by Hudson Bay and then they migrate to the plains of Brazil and Argentina. The bird books talk about their flight pattern in the fall as one of the marvels of bird migration. The Plovers head east from Hudson Bay to the coast and then they fly over the Atlantic Ocean 2,400 miles to their South American wintering grounds. In the spring they head up the western coast of South America, fly over the Gulf of Mexico and then work their way up through the middle of the US to their breeding grounds in Canada.
Plovers have short stubby beaks, shorter than the head, swollen at the end and depressed in the middle. The Killdeer, a common bird in our area, is in the Plover family.
The above photos are of the bird in it’s non-breeding plumage. In the spring the AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER has black on its breast and a white line that extends up to the face in an “S” shape. At that time of the year, you might find a flock out in a plowed field, they blend in so well that the only way you are alerted to their presence is when they move as they fly to a new location.
Their close relative, the Black-bellied Plover also occurs in Minnesota. In the fall, they can be distinguished from the Golden Plover by their overall gray color. Both these birds are considered “upland shorebirds”, and are found mainly on the plains and not so much by water.