Photo: In autumn, some fresh juvenile Black-bellied Plovers (at right) can be quite gold-washed throughout. A daintier specimen adorning this fresh, golden finery could perhaps cause some identification issues, perhaps at first glance resembling an American Golden-Plover (at left).
Leaving plumage details aside for now, structurally there are fundamental differences between the two species. With American Golden, note the dainty, delicate build. Its bill is slimmer, its forehead rises more sharply and its head it ‘domed’; lending to a “dove-like” expression as the shorebird field guides state. Its wings are long and typically extend well past the tail. With Black-bellied, note the heavier-set build. The bill is thick (thicker than American Golden) and the head carries more ‘weight’, structurally. Note here how its primary tips jut ever so slightly past its tail tip, an appearance typical of the species.
With American Golden, the patterning to the head is high-contrast, with a dark cap; a conspicuous light brow line; and a faint dark eyeline. Its underparts are typically quite dark throughout with smudgy, dark horizontal barring to the chest and upper belly. With Black-bellied, the patterning to the head is low contrast, lending to a plainer expression. Its underparts are typically quite whitish throughout with the chest and upper belly finely streaked in brown.
Primary Field Marks
With American Golden, the rump is brown and the underwing is uniformly grayish. With Black-bellied, the rump is white and the whitish underwing shows black to the axillaries, or, “armpits.”
Thank you to Nancy Barrett (photo of Black-bellied taken at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. September 2015) and Stephen Stephen (photo of American Golden, taken at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. September 2015) for use of their superb captures. The educational value of this note is greatly enhanced with the use of this comparison photo.
Happy Shorebirding 🙂