At the breeding grounds, male American golden plovers are highly territorial, and may return to the same nesting site from year to year. The males begin their display flights soon after arriving. The American golden plover is monogamous, and pair bonds are formed fairly quickly and last throughout the breeding season, although not between years (3) (5).
The male American golden plover builds the nest by creating a scrape in the tundra and lining it with dead plant matter, especially dry grass, lichens and leaves (2) (3) (5). The female lays four eggs in a clutch, and only lays one clutch per year, usually between May and June. Both the male and female American golden plover incubate the eggs, although the female generally incubates at night and the male during the day (3) (5). The eggs are white or off-white, spotted with dark brown and black, and hatch after about 25 days (2) (3).
The young American golden plovers are well developed at hatching, and can feed themselves after only one day (2) (3). Both adults look after the young (3) (5), which are able to fly at around 22 to 23 days old (3), but which lag significantly behind the adults in departing on the autumn migration (3) (6).
In addition to its “stop-run-stop” foraging technique, in which it scans for and captures prey during brief stops (2) (3) (5), the American golden plover also engages in “foot-trembling”. This consists of standing on one foot while the other, held out in front of the body, is trembled against the ground to create vibrations. It is unclear whether the vibrations scare prey items out of hiding or attract them closer to the source of vibration (4). Once prey is sighted, the American golden plover then abruptly pecks at the ground to capture it (2) (3).
The American golden plover typically feeds in open areas or in short vegetation (2), and its diet includes insects, small molluscs and crustaceans. When available, this bird also consumes berries, leaves and seeds (2) (3) (5).
The American golden plover sometimes forms small flocks ranging in size from 50 to 150 individuals, and frequently mixes with grey plovers (Pluvialis squatarola)(4) (5). However, some individuals defend feeding territories on the wintering grounds (3) (5).