Pacific Golden-PloverPluvialis fulva

adult male, breeding
Tom Vezo/VIREO
adult female, breeding
Tom Vezo/VIREO
immature (1st winter)
Hanne & Jens Eriksen/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Joe Fuhrman/VIREO
adult, molting to breeding plumage
Martin Hale/VIREO
adult male, breeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO

Family

Description

This bird is so similar to American Golden-Plover that the two were regarded as one species until 1993. However, the birds can tell the difference: where the two forms overlap in western Alaska, they seldom or never interbreed. Their migratory routes are strikingly different: American Golden-Plover migrates to South America, while Pacific Golden-Plover flies from Alaska to islands in the Pacific and often on to Australia, regularly covering over 2,000 miles in a single nonstop flight.

Habitat

Tundra (summer); short-grass fields, mudflats, shores during migration. During migration, often on extensive areas of short grass, flooded pastures, as well as on mudflats, beaches. In winter in Hawaii, often forages on lawns. In western Alaska, where the two golden-plovers overlap in summer, the Pacific typically nests at lower elevations than the American, on wetter tundra with taller vegetation.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects, also mollusks, crustaceans, berries. On breeding grounds, feeds mostly on insects, including beetles, flies, and others, also some berries. In migration in open fields, eats wide variety of insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars. On shores, also feeds on small crustaceans and mollusks. During migration seasons, may eat many berries.

Feeding Behavior

Typically they walk or run a few steps and then pause, then move forward again, pecking at the ground whenever they spot something edible.

Nesting

Males perform flight display over breeding territory by flying high, with exaggerated slow, deep wingbeats, while giving a repeated, plaintive teee-chewee whistle. Nest site is on ground, on dry ground often surrounded by wet tundra. Nest (probably built by male) is shallow depression in tundra, lined with lichens, moss, grass, leaves. Eggs: 4. Pale buff to cinnamon, boldly blotched with black and brown, well camouflaged when seen against varied tundra vegetation. Incubation is by both parents, about 25 days. Male reportedly incubates by day, female at night. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Age at first flight about 26-28 days.

Eggs

4. Pale buff to cinnamon, boldly blotched with black and brown, well camouflaged when seen against varied tundra vegetation. Incubation is by both parents, about 25 days. Male reportedly incubates by day, female at night. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Age at first flight about 26-28 days.

Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Age at first flight about 26-28 days.

Conservation

Formerly hunted during migration in Hawaii, now protected and occurs in good numbers. Large numbers of shorebirds are killed for food in some parts of eastern Asia, including Pacific Golden-Plovers in at least a few areas. Wintering areas on Pacific islands vulnerable to sea level rise caused by climate change.

Range

In fall, most Pacific Golden-Plovers from Alaska probably make nonstop flight to Hawaii; some winter there, others continue to other islands, Australia, or New Zealand. Small numbers occur along west coast of Canada and United States, mostly in fall, a few spending the winter.

Listen

calls
calls

Similar Species

American Golden-Plover

A trim, elegant plover. Swift and graceful in flight, probably one of the fastest fliers among shorebirds, and with good reason: it migrates every year from Arctic Alaska and Canada to southern South America. Flocks of northbound migrants, in their striking spring plumage, are seen mostly in the heartland of our continent, on the Great Plains and the Mississippi Valley; there they often forage in open fields and prairies, far from water.

adult, breeding

Black-bellied Plover

This stocky plover breeds in high Arctic zones around the world, and winters on the coasts of six continents. Some can be seen along our beaches throughout the year (including non-breeding immatures through the summer). Although the Black-bellied Plover is quite plain in its non-breeding plumage, it adds much to the character of our shorelines with its haunting whistles, heard by day or night.

adult male, breeding

Mountain Plover

Poorly named, this pallid plover is a bird of flat open plains, not mountains. Of all of our "shorebirds," this is the one most disconnected from the shore, generally living miles from water in the dry country of the west. The short-grass prairie where it once thrived has been largely converted to farmland, but the Mountain Plover has found new habitat in grassland overgrazed by cattle.

adult male

Eurasian Dotterel

Across northern Europe and Asia, this beautiful small plover nests on high, dry tundra, and it has been found nesting a few times on similar terrain in western Alaska. Strays have been found very rarely south of Alaska on the Pacific Coast in fall.

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