American Golden-Plover

Charadriidae (plovers, dotterels, lapwings) in the order Charadriiformes

Upperparts speckled with black, gold and white, and underparts are entirely black. A white stripe extends from the forehead and eyebrows along the edge of the black throat and breast. The bill is much smaller than that of the black-bellied plover. Viewed in flight, the nonbreeding plumage is mostly brownish, the wings lack a prominent white stripe and the underwing linings are pale with no black near the body at the base of the wings. Voice is a sharp, quick, 2- or 3-syllable whistle.

Length: 10 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).
Habitat and conservation: 
Plovers usually forage on drier parts of mudflats, plowed fields, shallow-flooded fields or grassy areas. From a distance the foraging behavior—running, stopping abruptly, then picking up food—is vary different from that of the sandpipers and other shorebirds. In the 1800s, this species was overhunted, and the populations have never completely recovered.
Forages on plowed fields, flooded row-crop stubble, grazed pastures and muddy shorelines for worms and other invertebrates.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common early migrant.
Life cycle: 
This bird is an early migrant, initially arriving in March just after killdeer and American woodcocks. It is a ground-nester and breeds in the Arctic tundra in northern Canada and Alaska. During North American winters, this species lives in South America, where it’s summer. As they travel north, they pass through Missouri, but on their way back south in fall, they take a more easterly route over the west Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.
Human connections: 
Any bird that annually flies over 20,000 miles is worthy of human admiration. There is a possibility that this might have been the species that Christopher Columbus saw as he approached the New World, alerting him he was nearing land.
Ecosystem connections: 
Though it just passes through our state, this bird plays an important role as an invertebrate-eating shorebird—and as a prey species—both in the Arctic tundra and in its wintering grounds in the pampas of Argentina.