Featured Photo by Kathy Buscher
- Physical Description: A medium-sized shorebird, the plover measures approximately 10 inches in length, with a wingspan of 22 inches and a weight of about 5.5 ounces. Plumage is speckled gold and brown on the back, with a black chest and belly, and a white rump. The plover’s face is black with a white border; the bill and legs are black.
- Geographic Distribution: Plovers are found in central and eastern Canada (including Arctic Canada for summer breeding), the United States (including Alaska), Mexico, Central America, and South America.
- Environment: The plover is generally considered a shorebird, but the golden plover is also found in grassland such as prairies, mudflats, tundra, beaches, and other open ground.
Myths, Folklore, and Cultural Associations
At one time golden plovers were believed to contain the souls of those people who assisted at the Crucifixion, and therefore were doomed to wander forever for their sin against Christ. This may refer to the bird’s migratory habits, or to its behavior of running in starts and stops.
An English folk belief has it that to see seven plovers together was an omen of misfortune. Folklore tells us that if you hear a plover call in the morning, someone you know will soon die. To see a plover was also a sign of upcoming rain.
In Hawaiian mythology, the golden plover is a bird form of the legendary figure Kumukahi, related to the deity Pele, who was a healer said to enable people to perform miracles. In Iceland, the golden plover is a sign of summer.
Omens and Divinatory Meaning
The plover’s long migratory route indicates that it must prepare well in advance for the journey or die along the way. The plover can teach you about the long-range planning and encourage you to look beyond short term to prepare for maximum efficiency.
The plover’s start-and-stop search for food and its keen eyesight suggest that you keep an eye on the details. Thoroughly cover short stretches of ground at a time, instead of wandering aimlessly.
Associated Energies: Preparation, advance planning, travel
Associated Season: Summer
Elemental Associations: Air, Water
Color Associations: Black White
REFERENCE: Birds, a Spiritual Field Guide, Explore the Symbology & Significance of These Divine Winged Messengers by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
It’s fascinating that the plover has an “injured parent” ruse where it will run back and forth pretending to have a broken wing to lure dangerous predators away from their nest and chicks. I wonder if plovers innately understand the psychology of predators who dominate the field. Predators want to take advantage of any perceived weakness of their prey, and plovers capitalize on this quality. As I am thinking of Arin’s divinatory meaning, I can’t help but think of retirement and investment plans. I think of the difficult economy my generation of peers has inherited and the stress it has caused. I need the infuse the wisdom of the plover into my life!