Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER.
CHARADRIUS MARMORATUS, Wagler.
PLATE CCCXVI.--ADULT IN SUMMER, WINTER, AND SPRING.
The Golden Plover spends the autumn, winter, and part of the spring, in
various portions of the United States, appearing in considerable numbers both
along the coast and in the interior, and not unfrequently on our highest
grounds. A much greater number, however, proceed in severe winters beyond the
limits of our Southern States, and the partial migrations of this species are
much influenced by the state of the weather. They are more abundant along the
sea shores of the Middle and Eastern Districts from the middle of April to the
beginning of May, whereas in autumn they range over the interior, and more
especially the western prairies. In the early part of May they congregate in
immense flocks, and commence their journey toward more northern regions, where
they are said to breed.
This bird moves on the ground with sprightliness. When observed, it often
runs with considerable rapidity to some distance, suddenly stops short, nods
once or twice, vibrating its body at the same time, and if it should imagine
itself unnoticed, it often lies down and remains crouched until the danger is
over. At the time of their departure from the north, and while on the sands or
mud-bars on the sea-shore, they often raise their wings as if to air them for a
few moments. While searching for food, they move in a direct manner, often look
sideways toward the ground, and pick up the object of their search by a peculiar
bending movement of the body. They are frequently observed to pat the moist
earth with their feet, to force worms from their burrows. In autumn they betake
themselves to the higher grounds, where berries as well as insects are to be met
with, and where they find abundance of grasshoppers.
When travelling to a considerable distance, the Golden Plover flies at the
height of from thirty to sixty feet, in a regular manner, with considerable
velocity, the flock, when large, forming an extended front, and moving with
regular flappings, an individual now and then uttering a mellow note. Before
alighting they often perform various evolutions, now descending and flying
swiftly over the ground, then curving upwards or sidewise, closing and extending
their ranks, until the sportsman is often tired of watching them, and, after
all, the flock, just when he expects it to alight, may suddenly shoot off and
fly to a distance. When they alight within shooting distance, the moment their
feet touch the ground is the critical one, for they are generally in a compact
body, and almost immediately afterwards they disperse. I have often observed
them while flying from one place to another, suddenly cheek their course for a
moment or two, as if to look at the objects below, in the manner of Curlews.
While at New Orleans, on the 16th of March, 1821, I was invited by some
French gunners to accompany them to the neighbourhood of Lake St. John, to
witness the passage of thousands of these birds, which were coming from the
north-east, and continuing their course. At the first appearance of the birds
early in the morning, the gunners had assembled in parties of from twenty to
fifty at different places, where they knew from experience that the Plovers
would pass. There stationed, at nearly equal distances from each other, they
were sitting on the ground. When a flock approached, every individual whistled
in imitation of the Plover's call-note, on which the birds descended, wheeled,
and passing within forty of fifty yards, ran the gauntlet as it were. Every gun
went off in succession, and with such effect that I several times saw a flock of
a hundred or more reduced to a miserable remnant of five or six individuals.
The game was brought up after each volley by the dogs, while their masters were
charging their pieces anew. This sport was continued all day, and at sunset,
when I left one of these lines of gunners, they seemed as intent on killing more
as they were when I arrived. A man near the place where I was seated had killed
sixty-three dozens. I calculated the number in the field at two hundred, and
supposing each to have shot twenty dozen, forty-eight thousand Golden Plovers
would have fallen that day.
On inquiring if these passages were of frequent occurrence, I was told that
six years before, such another had occurred immediately after two or three days
of very warm weather, when they came up with a breeze from the north-east. Only
some of the birds were fat, the greater number of those which I examined being
very lean; scarcely any had food in their stomach, and the eggs in the ovaries
of the females were undeveloped. The next morning the markets were amply
supplied with Plovers at a very low price.
CHARADRIUS MARMORATUS, Wagler, Syst, Avitim.
GOLDEN PLOVER, Charadrius pluvialis, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. vii. p.71.
CHARADRIUS PLUVIALIS, Bonap. Syn. p. 297.
CHARADRIUS PLUVIALIS, Goldest Plover, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer.,vol. ii. p. 623.
AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER, Charadrius marmoratus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v.p. 575.
Adult, 10 1/2, 22 3/8.
Migrates southward in autumn and winter in vast flocks, from the northern
regions, resting by the way, both in the interior and along the coast. Breeds
on the Northern Barren Grounds, and islands of the Arctic Sea.
Adult Male in spring.
Bill shorter than the head, straight, subcylindrical. Upper mandible with
the dorsal line straight and slightly sloping for two-thirds of its length, then
bulging a little and curving to the tip, which is rather acute, the sides flat
and sloping at the base, convex towards the end, where the edges are sharp and
inclinate. Nasal groove extended along two-thirds of the mandible, filled with
a bare membrane; nostrils basal, linear, in the lower part of the membrane, open
and pervious. Lower mandible with the angle long, narrow, but rounded, the
sides at the base sloping outwards and flat, the dorsal line ascending and
slightly convex, the edges sharp and involute towards the narrow tip.
Head of moderate size, oblong, rather compressed, the forehead rounded.
Eyes large. Neck rather short. Body ovate, rather full. Wings long. Feet
rather long, slender; tibia bare for a considerable space; tarsus rather
compressed, covered all round with reticulated hexagonal scales; toes slender;
the hind toe wanting; third or middle toe longest, fourth considerably longer
than the second, all scutellate above and marginate, the outer connected with
the middle toe by a membrane as far as the second joint; claws small,
compressed, slightly arched, slender but obtuse at the end, the inner edge of
the middle claw dilated.
Plumage soft, blended, slightly glossed, the feathers rounded. Wings long
and pointed; primary quills tapering, the first longest, the second a little
shorter, the rest rapidly graduated; outer secondaries short, broad, obliquely
rounded, inner tapering and elongated. Tail rather short, rounded, of twelve
Bill black. Iris brown. Feet bluish-grey. The upper part of the head,
the fore part of the back, and the scapulars are beautifully variegated with
brownish-black and bright yellow, the latter in spots along the edges of the
feathers. The hind part of the back greyish-brown, variegated with yellow of a
duller tint; the tail brown, barred with white. The wings are hair-brown, the
smaller coverts spotted with yellowish-white, the primary coverts and
secondaries tipped with white. The inner secondaries like the scapulars. Part
of the forehead, the loral space, a band over the eye, and the throat, are
greyish-white; the sides of the neck and body variegated with brown, dull white
and yellowish. The breast and a broad band down the fore-neck are
brownish-black, the latter margined on each side with white. Axillar feathers,
and lower tail-coverts, white.
Length to end of tail 10 1/2 inches, to end of wings 10 1/4, to end of
claws 11 1/2; extent of wings 22 3/8; wing from flexure 7; tail 3 2/12; bill
along the back 11/12, along the edge of lower mandible 1 2/12; bare part of
tibia 8/12; tarsus 1 7/12, middle toe 1 1/12, its claw 4/12. Weight 5 1/2 oz.
Adult in winter.
The black on the lower parts is peculiar to the breeding season; and after
the autumnal moult, they become of a light greyish colour, spotted and streaked
with deep grey. In other respects the plumage is similar to that described
Length to end of tail 10 3/4, to end of claws 11 7/8; extent of wings
22 5/8. Weight 4 1/2 oz.
Light coloured variety.
Bill and feet greyish-blue. Iris deep brown. Upper part of head and back
mottled with black and pale yellow; wing-coverts greyish, with white and dusky
spots, as are the sides of the head and the throat; a broad band of white over
the eye; fore part of neck pale grey, fading into pale cream-colour and white;
the breast and fore-neck with large spots of black.
This individual was killed in the breeding season.