American Golden-Plover

Pluvialis dominica


Sounds and Vocal Behavior

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Figure 3. Vocalizations of American and Pacific golden-plovers.

Some vocalizations of American (P. dominica) and Pacific (P. fulva) golden-plovers (sonograms from Connors et al. 1993). For additional sonograms, see Byrkjedal and Thompson (1998). A, B: the Repetitive Call that accompanies male territorial flight display is very distinctive in each species. C, D: Complex Whistles of males, with arrows denoting repeating unit. E, F: Alarm/Distraction Calls of males at the nest; low-intensity call on left, high-intensity call on right. G: Aggression Call of male American Golden-Plover during aerial pursuit of intruder (this occurs in both intraspecific and interspecific interactions). For additional sonograms, see Connors et al. 1993, Miller 1996.

Alternate (breeding) male American Golden-Plover vocalizing.
© Jim Hully , Alaska , United States , 6 June 2017



No data available.

Vocal Array

Known repertoires are incomplete. Many vocalizations of American and Pacific golden-plovers are similar, but often distinctive during breeding and non-breeding seasons. Calls of Pacific Golden-Plover are somewhat better known than American Golden-Plover. Nine types of vocalizations are described here. On the breeding grounds, have (1) Repetitive Call accompanying territorial display flight by males; (2) Complex Whistle used in aggression and intrapair communication; and a variety of monosyllabic and polysyllabic calls (3) Alarm/Distraction Calls, (4) Aggression Calls, (5) Courtship Calls, and (6) Intrapair Calls. In the nonbreeding season, have (7) Flight Calls, (8) Alarm Calls, and (9) Aggression Calls (last two calls are best known in Pacific Golden-Plover).

Breeding Season

Repetitive Call. Also termed "rhythmically repeated call" (70) or "song" (31). Given during Butterfly Display (see Behavior: Spacing) and differs strikingly between species. In American Golden-Plover, an abrupt tlink or tdlink [described as tud'ling (215), toojick (216), ktoodlee (142), chu-leek or too-lick (44), and tulik or ptulick (31)] repeated at rates of 50–130/min (37, 70; Figure 3A); in Pacific Golden-Plover, a plaintive pee-chew-ee [described as pee-er-wee (J. T. Nichols in 194), tee-tyu-eet (217), and ptee-oo-leeee (31) at rates of 15–40/min (37, 70; Figure 3B).

Complex Whistle. Also termed "long call" (218), "song" (70), or "trilling song" (31). Given by male during descent and on ground immediately after alighting from Butterfly Display flight; usually repeated twice on ground in rapid succession with simultaneous head-pumping. Female often echoes call and also pumps head. Male (and to a lesser extent female) frequently gives call from ground or air during intraspecific or interspecific chases or territorial interactions, and in response to intruders passing overhead. Occasionally given by male during Butterfly Display flight. Basic call in both species is wit-weeyou-wit, with somewhat more warbling quality in Pacific Golden-Plover (37; Figure 3C and Figure 3D). Not uncommon to hear variations in which ≥ 1 syllables repeated or slightly altered. Drury (142) described several versions of American Golden-Plover Complex Whistle, including tsee-witwit-tsee, ka-sweeeooowit, and kloo tswit-tswit kloo; Byrkjedal and Thompson (31) likened it to witt-wee-wyu-witt-witt. J. T. Nichols (in 194) rendered Pacific Golden-Plover call as piterweeu, piterweeu, piterwit or peeperwip, peeperweeu, peeperwip, noting similarity to calls of the Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus); Sauer (218) as quee quee que yah, queequeequeeah, de de dee yah, and kwe kwe kwee oih; Kondratiev (217) as teep-teeyu-veet-veet-teeyu-veet; Byrkjedal and Thompson (31) as t'wee-witt-wiy-wyu-witt-wju.

Alarm/Distraction Calls. Differ between the species, with many minor variants reported. In American Golden-Plover, kleeep (OWJ) or more drawn-out klee-yeep shifting to killik-killik as threat increases (37; Figure 3E), kill-ee-oh kill-ee or pull-ee-oo plee-ee (53), te-tee-duiee (216), kleeear and turdileee (142). In Pacific Golden-Plover, peee (varies from shorter to more drawn-out versions; OWJ) shifting with increasing threat to deedleek (37; see Figure 3F), or pfeeb shifting to pfeebleeb or deedleek (218). Shift to different call with increasing threat not irreversible, as birds often switch back and forth; also highly agitated American Golden-Plovers call klee-yeep instead of killik-killik during injury feigning (OWJ; see Behavior: Predation). Alarm/Distraction Calls are similar, but probably not identical in both sexes.

Aggression Calls. Those of American Golden-Plover on ground reported same as Alarm/Distraction vocalizations ( 142); in Pacific Golden-Plover, a chattering but melodic de rede rede rederedere (218). During aggressive aerial pursuit chases of American Golden-Plover, pursuer calls tdlinkit-tdlinkit (37; Figure 3G), or toodleeka-toodleeka (142) and pumps head vigorously; no comparable call detected in Pacific Golden-Plover.

Courtship Calls. Not yet described in American Golden-Plover; captive Pacific Golden-Plover males courting on ground gave soft trilled teeree teeree and bursts of pk pk pk (218).

Intrapair Calls. Subtle, undetected calls likely used by both species in intrapair communication.

Nonbreeding Season

Flight Calls. Vary in both species. Urner (219) lists extensive "vocabulary" of 20 calls for migrating American Golden-Plovers; most frequently heard were whistled que and que-del . More recent descriptions: for American Golden-Plover, tyy-ee or tuu-ee, also tuu-u-ee and tu-uu-ee (220), queedle (6); for Pacific Golden-Plover, chu-it, chu-eet, or chu-ee (uh) (220), chuwi or chuweedle (6). Flight Calls of American Golden-Plover usually with stress on first or second syllable, of Pacific Golden-Plover on second syllable.

Alarm Calls. Those of Pacific Golden-Plover include drawn-out chu-EET or chu-EE(uh) with emphatic stress as shown (220), sharp pseeep (OWJ), or wheet (6). Additional observations (OWJ): Alström ( 220) and Paulson (6) renditions are consistent with Pacific Golden-Plover alarm vocalizations on Hawaii overwintering grounds; the frequently heard chu-EET and chu-EE(uh) calls of disturbed overwintering birds have not been detected on breeding grounds, possibly Alarm Calls of breeding birds (both species) restricted to those already described (see type 3 vocalizations).

Aggression Calls. Aggressive interactions and accompanying calls very common among overwintering Pacific Golden-Plovers in Hawaii, especially territorial individuals and birds at nocturnal roosts (see Behavior: Spacing and Agonistic Behavior). Calls melodious and varied: pseer, sweerit, psweer, psweer-wit, pswer-pswer-pswerrr-wit-wit (221, OWJ). Of these, the longer versions are either the same or very similar to Complex Whistle of breeding birds. Presumably, these calls very similar in American Golden-Plovers.

The acoustic features of Pluvialis calls indicate that the Repetitive Call is "ancestral to the genus" and demonstrate obvious homologies between certain elements of the Repetitive Calls and Complex Whistles of American and Pacific golden-plovers (70). Additional information on breeding and non-breeding vocalizations (mostly minor variations) can be found in other sources, the most useful probably being Pym (24) and Cramp and Simmons ( 15).

Geographic Variation

Mostly unknown. Foregoing descriptions of calls from relatively few sites on the breeding and overwintering grounds.


Probably most vocal during breeding season, but migrants and overwintering birds also vocalize frequently.

Daily Pattern of Vocalizing

Repetitive Call during Butterfly Display is heard throughout the day and night during pre-incubation phase of breeding cycle. According to Byrkjedal and Thompson (31), repetitive calling is most frequent among unpaired Pacific Golden-Plover males which is consistent with the advertisement function of this call/display (see Behavior: Sexual Behavior). As incubation gets underway, repetitive call/display mostly restricted to male's off-duty hours primarily at night (see Breeding: Incubation). Other vocalizations vary with daily circumstances; no clear pattern.

Places of Vocalizing

Repetitive Call and Flight Calls heard only during flight; Complex Whistle and Aggression Calls (breeding and non-breeding seasons) given mostly from ground, occasionally while in flight; Courtship and Intrapair Calls given primarily on the ground, possibly during flight; Alarm/Distraction calls given from ground only; Alarm Calls (non-breeding season) from ground and in flight. Ground calls given in extensive area around nest, initial alarm calls of incubating bird sometimes from nest itself. No perches required for vocalizations, though agitated bird often runs about in vicinity of nest, stopping and calling from rocks and other prominences. Presumably, any elevation, however slight, facilitates responses when threatened by intruder. Aerial calls, especially Repetitive Call, given over wide areas, often beyond apparent boundaries of territory (see Behavior: Spacing). Calls of overwintering birds are not limited to specific sites.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Recommended Citation

Johnson, O. W., P. G. Connors, and P. Pyle (2019). American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica), version 3.1. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.