Six American golden plovers fed on a mudflat at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area this morning, having stopped to rest and feed on the Missouri River floodplain as they head for the Arctic tundra of Alaska and Canada. These long-distance migrants leave their Arctic breeding grounds by late summer, traveling to grasslands of Patagonia (in southern South America) for the northern winter; this journey is achieved without rest stops as the plovers travel off the East Coast of the Americas.
Come spring, American golden plovers migrate northward through the heart of North America; it is then (primarily in late March or early April) that they may be encountered on fields or mudflats, often in large flocks. After feeding on invertebrates and seeds, they continue their journey to the north and will be nesting on the tundra by late spring.
This morning's visitors had not yet molted to their summer plumage but they were nevertheless attractive birds. Of course, their beauty is magnified by our knowledge of their stamina; seasonal residents of two Hemispheres, they grace the Heartland for but a few weeks each year. My friend and I were fortunate to enjoy their presence.