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Photo by Peter LaTourrette.
This species was on the 2002 WatchList, but is not on the 2007 WatchList. Please refer to http://web1.audubon.org/science/species/watchlist/techReport.php for information on the 2007 WatchList.
This plover makes one of the longest migrations in the world. Like other shorebirds, it is probably capable of flying nonstop for at least 5,000 to 7,000 kilometers at a time, reaching an altitude of six kilometers when migrating over water. It weighs about ? pound and can live to be at least 15 years old. This species shares sympatric breeding grounds with the American Golden-Plover in North American and Russian tundras. They were previously considered subspecies of the Lesser Golden-Plover.
This medium-sized plover is morphologically similar to the American Golden-Plover and previous to decisive studies, the two were regarded as subspecies. Considerable overlap in their breeding range presents an identification challenge for the first-time observer. The American Golden-Plover is frequently longer and its wings extend distinctively beyond its tail while the Pacific Golden-Plover?s wings usually reach just to the tip of the tail. The Pacific Golden-Plover has a more long-legged appearance and its upperparts are sprinkled with bright yellow markings. The American Golden-Plover is similar, with duller markings.
There is no accurate population estimate of the total world population of this species. In 1993, a rough estimate of 90,000 individuals was obtained for Pacific Golden-Plovers in the East Asian-Australasian flyway, based on limited count data and extrapolation. The 2001 US Shorebird Conservation Plan roughly estimates a population of 16,000 individuals based on broad-scale surveys. Accounts of these plovers blanketing the sky suggest that it may have once numbered in the millions. This species has a history of exploitation, but impacts of hunting have been left largely unrecorded. It was hunted in the Hawaiian Islands until 1941 when bag limits of 15/day were often exceeded and hunters began noticing population declines. Subsequent to its protection, the Hawaiian Islands population has rebounded, but no comparative data exists to judge whether it has reached pre-exploitation levels. Hunting is illegal in Australia and New Zealand. Shorebirds are very extensively exploited in east Asia. Total annual losses to human predation in this region is unknown, but about 2,000 birds are killed per year in west Java alone.
The winter range of this species is spread out over about half of the world?s circumference. It occupies upland and coastal habitats ranging from Hawaii to Japan, from the South Pacific through southern Asia and the Middle East to northeast Africa. It also winters in specific areas of coastal California, and probably in Baja California, the Revillagigedo and Galapagos Islands, and Chile as well.
The vast breeding range of this species in arctic Asia needs further study ? much of the terrain is extremely remote. Available information shows that the eastern extent of its breeding range (in western Alaska) is shared with the American Golden-Plover. It is found breeding from Barrow to the tip of the Alaska Peninsula, and throughout much of the Bering Sea region.
Depending on their geographical location, Pacific Golden-Plovers nest in habitats that range widely from dense vegetation and moist forest-tundra in the lower areas to dry, open gravel and lichens in the higher areas. Males are highly territorial and defend large areas with help from their mates.
Migration is not a staged event as with other shorebirds. Adults may leave their northern breeding grounds as early as June while juveniles can linger as late as October before departing. Arrival back to the breeding grounds is influenced by latitude and annual variations in snowmelt, with the earliest arrivals (in the southern part of their range) in late April and the latest (in the northern reaches) by the end of June.
These plovers adapt to an array of winter habitat, much of it altered by humans. They are found in coastal salt marshes, beaches, mangroves, fields, clearings in heavily wooded areas, airport runways, military bases, golf courses, cemeteries, athletic fields, and residential lawns. Deforestation and cultivation actually provides habitat for this species, especially in heavily altered areas like Hawaii and India. Its great adaptability to these areas may cause it harm over the long-term, especially in heavily contaminated habitat.
Food items include terrestrial invertebrates, berries, leaves and seeds as well as some freshwater and marine invertebrates, and the occasional small vertebrate. This plover may be capable of maintaining seeds in its digestive tract to help it survive its long migratory flights.
Human populations are rapidly expanding over much of the Pacific Golden-Plover?s winter range. Large tracts of its migratory routes and winter habitat are under serious pressure from intensive agriculture, urbanization, tourism and ranching, where it is exposed to an array of agrochemicals. It winters in high densities on Hawaiian golf courses where it comes in contact with potentially hazardous chemicals. The effect of pesticides on this species is virtually unstudied. In 1979, a study of 8 birds of this genus collected in Alaska showed relatively high levels of DDE and PCBs.
Hunting of the Pacific Golden-Plover in its winter range - most of which is unprotected - represents a threat to the species, the extent of which needs to be studied and addressed.
This species is protected by law and is largely unexploited in the Western Hemisphere. It is listed by the US Shorebird Conservation Plan as a Species of High Concern, due to its low relative abundance, and threats during both breeding and non-breeding seasons.
What Can You Do?
Audubon?s Important Bird Area program is a vital tool for the conservation of Pacific Golden-Plover as well as other species. To learn more about the Important Bird Areas program and how you can help, visit: http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/.
Information on where Pacific Golden-Plovers occur and in what numbers is vital to conserving the species. Help in monitoring this and other species by reporting your sightings to eBird. A project of Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird is the world?s first comprehensive on-line bird monitoring program: http://www.audubon.org/bird/ebird/index.html
Volunteers are crucial to the success of programs that monitor the long-term status of wintering populations of Pacific Golden-Plover and other bird species. Audubon?s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is one of the longest-running citizen-science monitoring programs in the world and has helped to follow changes in the numbers and distribution of Pacific Golden-Plover. To learn more about the CBC and how you can participate, visit: http://www.audubon.org/bird/cbc
U.S. National Wildlife Refuges provide essential habitat for Pacific Golden-Plover, and a great number of other species throughout the U.S. and its territories. Unfortunately, the refuge system is often under-funded during the U.S. government?s budgeting process. To learn more about how you can help gain much needed funding for U.S. National Wildlife Refuges, visit: http://www.audubon.org/campaign/refuge_report/
Brown, S., C. Hickey, B. Harrington, and R. Gill, eds. 2001. The U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan, 2nd ed. Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Manomet, MA.
Johnson, Oscar W. and Peter G. Connors 1996. American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica)/Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva). The Birds of North America, No. 201-202 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.