Unusual American Golden-Plover – McLean County, Illinois

Alex LamoreauxBird SightingsLeave a Comment

Flock of American Golden-Plovers (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Flock of American Golden-Plovers (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Vast agricultural areas aren’t exactly the first landscape that comes to mind when thinking of ideal migrant shorebird habitat. For me the vast coastal marshes of the Delmarva will always be at the top of the list for the country’s best shorebird-watching, but while doing bird surveys in central Illinois recently I was happy to encounter many large flocks of American Golden-Plovers flying over and sometimes gathered in small playas created by a rather rainy spring. A particularly large flock of 210 golden-plovers that I was watching one afternoon would occasionally flush up for unknown reasons – maybe startled by a distant predator, or antsy to migrant, but would quickly settle down along the muddy shoreline of the puddles after a few seconds. During one episode of them flushing, a paler bird mixed into the agile flock caught my eye. I first wondered if it could be a (much rarer) Black-bellied Plover, but the size and coloration weren’t quite right. I walked closer and scoped through the flock  once again, picking up an unusually pale plover. It was surprising to see it was an otherwise ‘normal’ adult American Golden-Plover in size and structure, but had very diluted plumage and many of its wing feathers were pure white! Although not as ghostly as the pale Western Willet or the dilute Whimbrel I found a few years ago, this was a very unique bird among the 850 golden-plovers I came across during a week in the area….just wish I could have gotten better photos!

Leucistic/dilute American Golden-Plover (back) with 'normal' American Golden-Plovers in the foreground (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Leucistic/dilute American Golden-Plover with ‘normal’ American Golden-Plovers in the foreground (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)