Lisa Schibley


The Black-bellied Plover (BBPL) and American Golden-Plover (AMGP) can be tricky to distinguish. Here are some pointers to help out! In all plumages, check out the bill – thinner, shorter, and more delicate for AMGP, chunkier for BBPL. In flight look for black wingpits and white rump on BBPL. (photo below)

Photo: Manomet/Alan Kneidel

Breeding Plumage

  • -Extensive white on head, neck, and sides of the breast for BBPL. AMGP have a black cap.
  • -Black undertail on AMGP. In molting adults, the black underneath will be spotty and confusing. If the spotting continues through to the undertail, it’s a AMGP.
  • -Adult AMGP has gold spangled upperparts but be wary of bright BBPL in juvenile plumage.

Non-Breeding Plumage

  • -In all plumages, AMGP will often look smaller-headed with a thinner neck.
  • -Contrast between the dark cap and white eyebrow will be stronger on AMGP.
  • -Undertail coverts on BBPL are mainly clean snowy white. AMGP will often have some smudginess.

Juvenile Plumage

  • -The brightest young BBPL can have more gold on its back than a dull AMGP, don’t be fooled!
  • -Marks on BBPL chest and belly will trail off higher, often ending at a distinct line.
  • -Undertail coverts are more likely to be marked on AMGP.
Left: Black-bellied Plover (BBPL) / Right: American Golden-Plover (AMGP)

There is always more to explore! Learn about Manomet’s International Shorebird Survey here.