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A photo of a Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
Pacific Golden Plover

Pacific Golden Plover

Pluvialis fulva

The Pacific golden plover, Pluvialis fulva, is a medium-sized shorebird with a remarkable migratory pattern. Adults measure approximately 25 cm (9.8 in) in length and boast a wingspan of around 61 cm (24 in). The lightest individuals, devoid of fat reserves, tip the scales at about 135 g (4.8 oz), but they can weigh up to 198 g (7 oz) when preparing for their arduous journey to the Arctic breeding grounds.

Identification Tips

In their breeding attire, males are resplendent with gold and black spots adorning their crown, back, and wings. Their faces and necks are framed in black with a striking white border, and their breasts are a solid black, contrasting with a dark rump. Both bill and legs range from gray to black. Females are similarly patterned but with a less distinct, mottled black breast. During the nonbreeding season, both sexes adopt a more subdued look, with dark brown, gray, and yellowish tones replacing the stark black and white, and lighter underparts. The transformation to breeding plumage commences in March and April, while the molt to nonbreeding plumage begins during egg incubation in the Arctic. Newly hatched chicks are adorned with gold and black spots on their heads and backs, with whitish-yellow underparts, and their legs and feet are already adult-sized.

Habitat

The Pacific golden plover is a versatile bird, breeding in the open tundra of Alaska and Siberia where it finds insects and berries. Outside the breeding season, it frequents a variety of habitats, including grasslands, beaches, and tidal flats, and has shown remarkable adaptability to human-altered landscapes.

Distribution

This species is a true globe-trotter, breeding in the Arctic during the Northern Hemisphere summer and migrating across the Pacific to Asia, Australasia, and Pacific islands. Some individuals are known to venture as far as western Europe, though they are considered rare vagrants there.

Behaviour

The Pacific golden plover is a sight to behold when it gathers in flocks before heading north, soaring at altitudes ranging from 3,000 ft (910 m) to an impressive 16,000 ft (4,900 m). Not all birds undertake the migration; some, often due to age, injury, or insufficient fat reserves, remain behind.

Breeding

The breeding season sees males typically arriving first at the Arctic tundra, with some pairs already formed. Males construct nests in dry, open areas, where females lay four buff-colored eggs adorned with black and brown splotches. Both parents share the duties of incubation, chick-rearing, and defense against predators. Chicks are precocial, leaving the nest soon after hatching to forage but returning to their parents for warmth and protection.

Similar Species

The Pacific golden plover bears resemblance to the European golden plover, Pluvialis apricaria, and the American golden plover, Pluvialis dominica. It is most similar to the latter but can be distinguished by its slimmer build, longer legs, and typically more yellow on the back.

Diet and Feeding

The Pacific golden plover's diet is diverse, including insects, spiders, mollusks, crustaceans, small reptiles, berries, leaves, and seeds. It employs a run-stop-peck foraging method and is known to feed both within established territories and in loose groups when non-territorial.

Conservation status

As of the latest assessment on 10/01/16 by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Pacific golden plover is classified as Least Concern. However, the species is not without its challenges, as its population trend is on the decline, primarily due to habitat changes driven by climate change and severe weather events.

Pacific Golden Plover Sounds




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Pacific Golden Plover Fun Facts

Did you know?
The wintering range of Pacific Golden Plover spreads across nearly half of the Earth's circumference.

Pacific Golden Plovers on Birda

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