Pacific Golden-Plover

Pluvialis fulva

  • Version: 3.1 — Published October 15, 2019
  • Oscar W. Johnson, Peter G. Connors, and Peter Pyle

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Figure 1. Distribution of Pacific Golden-Plover in North and Central America.

Most of the breeding range of the Pacific Golden-Plover extends beyond this map westward across northern Siberia. The Pacific Golden-Plover overwinters regularly in California where indicated, and rarely elsewhere along the Pacific coast (see Distribution).

Definitive Alternate (breeding) male Pacific Golden-Plover.

Medium-sized plover, similar in appearance to American Golden-Plover. In Definitive Alternate (breeding) plumage, note white stripe that extends from head to tail, the large bill, long legs, and relatively short primary projection.

© Ian Davies , Alaska , United States , 22 May 2013
Definitive Basic (nonbreeding) Pacific Golden-Plover.

Sides of head grayish with darker auriculars and loral smudge and indistinct whitish supercilia. Upperparts including crown dark grayish brown with bright yellow, buffy, and whitish spots and fringes. Rectrices barred light and dark grayish brown.

© Brian Sullivan , Hawaii , United States , 22 September 2016

The Golden Plover is an aristocrat among birds. Everything about it is distinctive. The jet black breast and belly, the golden yellow back and striking head markings of the breeding plumage would in themselves be enough to set it apart in any assemblage of its relatives. In addition it has rather stately and dignified movements in contrast to the darting hasty nervousness of so many shorebirds whether feeding, migrating or on the breeding grounds. The downy chicks are also among the loveliest of all young birds, their yellow backs being startlingly different from the usual blacks, browns and grays affected by most newly hatched youngsters of the shorebird clan.

Gabrielson and Lincoln (1959), The Birds of Alaska (1)

The Pacific Golden-Plover breeds on tundras from western Alaska to the Yamal Peninsula, Russia. The breeding range converges with that of the very similar American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica) in the Bering Strait region, with the Pacific Golden-Plover being common on both sides of the Bering Strait, and the American Golden-Plover being rare in extreme eastern Siberia. From the breeding grounds, their extensive migrations, often involving nonstop, transoceanic flights, link the Pacific Golden-Plover with a vast area of the world. During the overwintering period, the species occupies an immense range from coastal California and much of the insular Pacific to Australia, southeast Asia, India, and northeast Africa. Overwintering habitats are extremely varied and include urban grasslands, tidal flats, and agricultural fields. Both sexes are site-faithful on the overwintering grounds, and each individual typically reoccupies the territory it held in the previous year.

On the breeding grounds, there is strong male-biased fidelity to specific territories over successive seasons. Territories are large (10–50 ha) and defined by aerial displays and vocalizations by males and defended by both members of the pair (especially the male) against conspecifics, congeners, and other intruders. Nests are shallow scrapes lined with lichens, and clutches typically contain 4 eggs. Both sexes incubate and care for the young.

Recommended Citation

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