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Pacific golden plover | nature magazine

Pacific golden plover

The Pacific golden plover (Pluvialis fulva) is a medium-sized plover. The genus name is Latin and means relating to rain, from pluvia, “rain”. It was believed that golden plovers flocked when rain was imminent. The species name fulva is Latin and refers to a tawny color.

Pacific golden plover
By Bering Land Bridge National PreservePacific Golden PloverUploaded by snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0, Link

The 23–26 cm long breeding adult is spotted gold and black on the crown, and back on the wings. Its face and neck are black with a white border, and it has a black breast and a dark rump. The legs are black. In winter, the black is lost and the plover then has a yellowish face and breast, and white underparts.

It is similar to two other golden plovers: the Eurasian and American plovers. The Pacific golden plover is smaller, slimmer and relatively longer-legged than the European golden plover, Pluvialis apraxia, which also has white axillary (armpit) feathers. Overall, the Pacific golden plover is found to be more similar to the American golden plover, Pluvialis Dominica, with which it was once considered conspecific as “lesser golden plover”. The Pacific golden plover is slimmer than the American species, has a shorter primary projection, longer legs, and is usually found to have more yellow on the back.

This wader forages for food on tundra, fields, beaches and tidal flats, usually by sight. It eats insects and crustaceans and some berries.

The breeding habitat of Pacific golden plover is the Arctic tundra from northernmost Asia into western Alaska. It nests on the ground in a dry open area.

It is migratory and winters in south Asia and Australasia. A few winter in California and Hawaii, USA. In Hawaii, the bird is known as the kōlea. It is very rare vagrant to western Europe. They return to the same wintering territory each year, which allowed scientists in Hawaii to attach tiny light-level geolocator devices to the birds and then retrieve them the following year in the same location. This research revealed that these birds make the 4800 km non-stop flight between Alaska and Hawaii in 3–4 days.

By JJ Harrison ( – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

[Wikipedia].[Photo© – Raju Karia].

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.

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.


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.




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