Lesser Golden-PloverPluvialis dominica (Muller)
Status Common transient. It is occasional in spring, with three occurrences of one or two birds each between 29 March and 7 April, the rest during May. It is generally uncommon but sometimes numerous as a fall migrant generally appearing in early August (average 16 August, earliest 21 July). It is most commonly seen in September but regularly noted until late October with stragglers well into November (latest 27 November).
Description Length: 24-28 cm. All plumages: No hind toe. Adults in summer: Upperparts dark gray, strongly speckled with golden yellow; crown nearly unspeckled; cheeks, throat and underparts black, including undertail coverts; forehead white, extending in band above eye and down side of neck to edge of belly, where it is suffused with gray. Adults in autumn: Traces of black on underparts.
Range Breeds from the arctic coast of Alaska, eastward to northern Baffin Island, south to northern Manitoba. Winters from Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil south to east central Argentina and Uruguay; casual in winter in the southern states.
Remarks Somewhat smaller than its close relative the Black-bellied Plover, the species with which it is most likely to be confused, it may be distinguished by its generally darker appearance. The Black-bellied Plover, particularly when in flight, shows a conspicuously white or nearly white tail and black axillars. The underwing of the Lesser Golden-Plover is uniformly light grayish brown, and the bird has no white on its tail.
Most northbound migrants travel a course far to the west of Nova Scotia, coming overland from their wintering grounds in South America through the Mississippi Valley and the Prairie Provinces. However, this bird's migratory route in autumn is quite different. After nesting in the far north is completed, the main flocks gather at points in Atlantic Canada and New England before beginning an arduous, 4000 km trans-Atlantic flight to Brazil. Fairly large numbers leave Nova Scotia about mid-September, though stragglers are seen much later. These laggards probably fly southward overland through the Atlantic states.
During the late nineteenth century this bird was abundant here in the fall, but soon afterwards its numbers began to decline rapidly. This decline was brought about by an overshooting of spring migrants (chiefly in the United States) and for some years the bird was thought to be marked for early extinction. In spite of this, legal hunting was permitted in both Canada and the United States through 1927. Since then it has been given year-round protection in both countries and is believed to be making a slow recovery.
The Greater Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) of Eurasia has occurred in Newfoundland and might turn up here. Among other field marks, its white underwings, which contrast with the gray underwings of the Lesser Golden-Plover, are conspicuous in flight.
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