Pacific Golden-Plover Pluvialis fulva Scientific name definitions

Oscar W. Johnson, Peter G. Connors, and Peter Pyle
Version: 1.1 — Published April 15, 2021

Conservation and Management

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Not globally threatened (Least Concern).

Effects of Human Activity

Habitat Loss and Degradation

Most breeding ranges are intact and relatively unexploited by humans. However, the effects of climate change (low growth tundra replaced by taller vegetation (shrubification), shifts in timing of insect emergence, etc.) loom as major threats to the stability of nesting grounds (373, 374, 375, 376, 377, 378), and increasingly, negative anthropogenic impacts are likely on breeding ranges as climate warms and northern areas become more accessible.

Overwintering ranges and migratory routes are variously threatened by warming climate, and pressures from agriculture, reclamation, pollution, residential and industrial development, and burgeoning human populations. Fortunately, Pacific Golden-Plovers are remarkably adapted to coexist with humans during the non-breeding season (see Habitat: Habitat in Nonbreeding Range) and this trait will offset some anthropogenic threats. As sea levels rise with global warming large areas of wintering habitat for shorebirds will likely be damaged or eliminated (379). This impact is potentially very significant on the winter range of plovers, much of which consists of low-lying land across the insular Pacific.

Shooting and Trapping

Pacific Golden-Plover was a popular game bird during the 19th century and part of the 20th century in Hawaii, although the impacts were mostly undocumented. The species was hunted (usually during spring) until 1941, with daily bag limit of 15 often exceeded (276). Various accounts described hunting techniques involving blinds located at watering sites and lamented declining populations (380, 275, 260, 381, 276). With subsequent protection, Pacific Golden-Plover has recovered in Hawaiian Islands. Unfortunately, no data for comparison of past and present populations.

Protected by law in the Western Hemisphere (382), Australia and New Zealand. However, commercialized exploitation of shorebirds very extensive in eastern Asia, particularly China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar (383, 384, 385, 386, 387, 388, 389, 390, 391, 392); also in India (Vaithianathan and Jeganathan 2012; P. C. Bhattacharjee and V. Santharam, personal communication). Total annual losses of Pacific Golden-Plover to human predation in these regions unknown, whether in excess of sustainable harvest uncertain (see 392, 393). A kill of about 2,000 per year reported in West Java (394). Disturbance caused by hunting, and other factors (e.g., vehicles, tourists, dogs) may indirectly reduce feeding opportunities and decrease fitness (395).

Pesticides and Other Contaminants/Toxins

Effects of pesticide exposure on wintering grounds and along migratory routes essentially unknown. Feeding in rice fields may be particularly hazardous. In the 1970s, a pooled sample of 8 birds collected on the Seward Peninsula (unclear if American Golden-Plover or Pacific Golden-Plover or both) contained relatively high levels of DDE and PCBs (396). A recent analysis was less alarming: 9 Pacific Golden-Plover eggs (7 collected on the Seward Peninsula, 1 each from the Alaska Peninsula and Yukon Delta) contained organic and inorganic contaminants, but at low levels unlikely to “affect the survival of individuals and consequently regulate the species at the population level” (397). No DDT-associated eggshell thinning found in golden-plover eggs (species uncertain) from Alaska (398). It is of concern that many Pacific Golden-Plover winter on golf courses in Hawaii where they may come in contact with potentially toxic chemicals (368).

Collisions with Stationary/Moving Structures or Objects

Collisions of Pacific Golden-Plovers with aircraft have occurred at Lihue and Kahului airports in Hawaii, especially during late fall. Studies showed: almost all strikes to be of inexperienced, newly arrived juveniles that were attracted to open spaces of runways; territorial adults wintering on grassy runway/taxiway borders apparently habituate to aircraft and pose negligible safety hazard; most strikes occurred when aircraft were near touchdown, seldom on takeoff (399, 400, 401, 402). Newer, quieter, larger-bodied aircraft are of potential concern as naïve juveniles may be less able to avoid them (403, 163). Allowing grass to grow tall along runways would probably exclude territorial birds, but this is unlikely to reduce plover strikes significantly. Also, taller grass may attract other, more troublesome species. Safety measures best directed at hazing of juveniles during critical fall migration period (see 163).


Conservation Status

Status designations for the plover in major shorebird conservation plans and other listings range from “highly imperiled” (377) to “species of least concern” (404), with other rankings (high and moderate) falling between these extremes (see 405, 406, 407, 408, 409). This lack of consensus emphasizes uncertainty as to population trends, and the need for solid information.

Conservation Measures and Habitat Management

No management programs exist for Pacific Golden-Plover at this time. Of various threats to the species, the most significant appears to be on breeding grounds where Wauchope et al. (378) predict that warming climate will result in almost complete elimination of suitable nesting habitat by 2070. Clearly, monitoring programs along with baseline studies are urgently needed to assess the impacts of warming on essentially all aspects of this species’ biology. The research, and education/conservation programs of international and regional shorebird agencies (e.g., Wetlands International, Alaska Shorebird Group, East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership) will likely be vital in these efforts.

Recommended Citation

Johnson, O. W., P. G. Connors, and P. Pyle (2021). Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva), version 1.1. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, B. K. Keeney, and S. M. Billerman, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.pagplo.01.1