Pacific Golden-Plover Pluvialis fulva Scientific name definitions

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

Demography and Populations

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Measures of Breeding Activity

Age at First Breeding

Except for overwintering birds (see Movements and Migration: Timing and Routes of Migration), many first-year Pacific Golden-Plover return to nesting grounds. These individuals easily distinguished by worn juvenile primaries (see Appearance: Plumages and Appearance: Molts), and both sexes known to breed, males possibly with greater frequency (293). Worn juvenile primaries not evident in American Golden-Plover (this species replaces flight feathers during first overwintering period; 321), thus more difficult to confirm probable breeding by first-year individuals.

Intervals Between Breeding

Most birds attempt to nest each year, but local and regional variables such as late snow melt, lack of food, and lemming cycle may prevent breeding or dramatically reduce nesting densities in some seasons (63, 315, 322, 293, 323).

Clutch Size and Number of Clutches per Season

Four eggs per clutch is typical in Pacific Golden-Plover (150, 61; WFVZ collection, OWJ). However, samples often average less than 4 eggs [e.g., 3.7–3.9 eggs (303), 3.6 eggs (59), 3.9 eggs (170)], likely due to partial depredation or 3-egg replacement clutches (see 171). Two 5-egg clutches found on Seward Peninsula, Alaska (OWJ) were presumably the result of egg-dumping.

Replacement laying after nest loss together with between-clutch mate fidelity has been documented (168, 170, 201, 171). Downward trend in body mass among females starting incubation late in the season (also similar trend in egg mass) probably reflects the demands of producing replacement clutches (61, 304).

Annual and Lifetime Reproductive Success

No information on lifetime success. Various measures of annual success and recruitment need study. Variation in annual success occurs on Seward Peninsula, Alaska, because of seasonally variable losses of eggs and chicks, and/or failure to breed (OWJ). Similarly, losses of nests/broods at study sites on the Taimyr Peninsula, Far North Russia, varied from 50% to total loss over period from 1993–2002 (324, 325, 168, 170).

Life Span and Survivorship

At a study site on Oahu, Hawaii: average life span after banding was approximately 5 yr for plovers captured as first-year birds, 4.5 yr for unknown age adults; some individuals survived ≥ 10 seasons post-banding and one bird (a male) was last seen on his overwintering territory at a minimum age of 21 yr 3 mo, the longevity record for the species (155, 156). Long-term tracking of another marked population on Oahu revealed mean life expectancy (post-banding) of 6 yr and survival rates that varied by sex and season from 89% to 96% (159). Estimated annual survival rates of 67% and 80% for non-territorial and territorial adults, respectively, with values for first-years of similar status of 82% and 90% 326. On the Taimyr Peninsula, marked males were known to nest at study site for at least 8 seasons (304). Nesting records on the Seward Peninsula are similar, at least 10 seasons survival for males, 8 for females (OWJ and P. Bruner, unpublished data).

Disease and Body Parasites

Body Parasites

Extensive investigation of Pacific Golden-Plovers (220 specimens) by Okimoto (261). Okimoto's findings and his review of literature indicate the following external and internal parasites from plovers collected on overwintering grounds in Hawaii: feather mites (probably families Dermaglyphidae, Proctophyllodidae, Pterolichidae); chewing lice (Saemundssonia sp., Quadraceps sp., Colphocephalum sp.); nasal mites (Rhinonyssidae); chiggers (Neoschoengastia sp.); eyeworm (Oxyspirura mansoni); acanthocephalans (Plagiorhynchus charadrii, Mediorhynchus orientalis); cecal worm (Subulura skrjabinensis); nematodes (Porrocaecum semiteres, P. ensicaudatum); trematodes (Heterophyidae); and unidentified cestodes. Blood smears were negative for haematozoans and avian influenza. Incidence of internal parasites varied greatly in Hawaii (high at some sites, low or absent at others), leading Okimoto to suggest that populations are distinct groupings with little intra-island or inter-island mingling during the overwintering period. This interpretation is consistent with overwinter fidelity observations in Hawaii where plovers are strongly site-faithful .

Reports of Pacific Golden-Plover parasites from various regions of the world include: acanthocephalans (Plagiorhynchus charadrii, Arythmorhynchus petrochenkoi, Filicollis anatis, Sphaerirostris areolatus, and Mediorhynchus papillosus) (327, 328, 329); nematode (Microtetrameres plovericus) (330); trematodes (Echinostoma charadrii, Eumegacetes sp., Acanthoparyphium cambellensis, Maritrema macropharynga, M. papillorobusta, and Levinseniella howensis) (331, 332, 333, 334); cestodes (Anomotaenia globulus, A. ericetorum, Polycercus sp., Liga brevis, and Paricterotaenia sp., Paraprogynotaenia charadrii and Paraprogynotaenia canarisi) (335, 336, 337, 338, 339); chiggers, lice, and mites (Acariscus pluvius, A. anous, Neoschoengastia carveri, N. ewingi, N. namrui, N. gallinarum, Toritrombicula shiraii, T. oahuensis, T. oceanica, Actornithophilus ochraceus, Quadraceps charadrii, Saemundssonia conica, Plutarchusia paralongitarsa) (340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346); hippoboscid flies (Ornithoica pusilla and Olfersia aenescens) (347). Avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum) found in one specimen from Northwest Hawaiian Island (348). No avian malaria (Plasmodium or Haemoproteus) in birds (n = 11) from Taimyr Peninsula, Far North Russia (349).

Causes of Mortality

Effects of extreme weather, collisions with man-made structures (see 350 for a general review), and hunting along the Asian coast (see Conservation and Management: Effects of Human Activity) are mostly undocumented. Nothing is known about mortality from interspecific competition. Intraspecific competition between newly arrived juveniles and established adults on overwintering grounds may be a significant cause of mortality among young birds.


A record during spring migration 2008 of an exhausted Pacific Golden-Plover (a male banded by OWJ on Oahu, Hawaii) landing in dense fog on a fishing vessel in the Bering Sea suggests such weather conditions cause mortality. By contrast, a severe storm (wind gusts to 126 kph) that battered Oahu in 1980 caused no apparent losses of plovers at a study site on the overwintering grounds (172). Exposure to various contaminants (see Conservation and Management: Effects of Human Activity) is likely, especially in areas outside the breeding range, however no published records of mortality. Feeding on poisoned bait set out for herons has caused accidental losses of Pacific Golden-Plover in India (P. O. Nameer, personal communication).


Little detailed knowledge of avian depredation during the breeding season. Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus), Gyrfalcon, and Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) all take plovers (351, 352, 353, 354). Parasitic Jaeger and Long-tailed Jaeger prey mostly on chicks and young birds (355). Other avian predators of possible significance include Pomarine Jaeger, Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), and Common Raven.

Lemming cycles apparently of major significance to nesting success. In peak years, arctic fox and various raptors consume lemmings almost exclusively; as lemmings decline, predators switch to diet of eggs and chicks. Numerous observers have reported these alternating scenarios on the Siberian breeding grounds, with near reproductive failure in some seasons (e.g., 303, 59, 37, 356, 170).

Caribou and reindeer are known to trample nests and eat eggs or young of tundra-nesting birds (357, 358, 359, 304). This occurred with nests under observation on Seward Peninsula in summer 1993 (OWJ). Chance passage of a large herd of these animals through local area likely to destroy most plover nests.

Established resident Pacific Golden-Plover on overwintering grounds in Oahu show high year-to-year survival rates, indicating that annual mortality mostly involves losses of eggs, chicks, and juveniles. Many nests and chicks are depredated, and of surviving juveniles in fall some (possibly a large fraction) are probably lost at sea during their first southward migration. Those juveniles that do migrate successfully arrive on overwintering grounds already occupied by experienced adults, with which they must then compete. Dead and dying juveniles in emaciated condition are relatively common during fall and winter months in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (18), similar mortality was observed at Johnston Island (19), and undetected starvation-caused losses are likely elsewhere in the overwintering range.

Losses of overwintering birds to depredation are poorly understood. Response to threat from possible raptor observed in Hawaii (see Behavior: Predation). In Hawaiian Islands: Barn Owl (Tyto alba), Short-eared Owl, Hawaiian Hawk (Buteo solitarius), feral house cat, and mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus) are potential predators of Pacific Golden-Plover; each of the raptors is known to kill plovers, mammalian depredation is uncertain (360, 361; R. Walker, personal communication); better assessment of plover depredation by all potential predators awaits additional studies. Habit of roosting on roofs in Hawaii (see Behavior: Self-Maintenance) lessens threat from feral house cats.

Population Spatial Metrics

Home Range

When not incubating, breeding birds (especially females) move to feeding grounds, often at considerable distance from nest (47, 37). Some individuals on Seward Peninsula move at least 3 km, with more extended flights likely (OWJ). On overwintering grounds on Oahu, movements mostly involve flights to roosting sites. Some birds need move only short distances, others much longer (no precise measurements) to join nighttime roosting aggregations (OWJ). Movements perhaps greatest where birds feeding in high-elevation environments (e.g., on island of Hawaii) return to rooftop, coastal, or hillside roosts.

Population Status


Current assessment for the global population is limited to estimates of uncertain accuracy: 185,000–250,000 (362), 100,000–1,000,000 (112). Estimates of 1.1–2.6 million pairs for Pacific Golden-Plover (37) are likely too optimistic. These high numbers were extrapolations based on overall breeding range and average nesting density; however, breeding distribution is often patchy and what appears to be suitable habitat may contain few or no birds (101, OWJ). Andres et al. (363) estimated 35,000–50,000 breeding birds in Alaska. From sampling in representative habitats, Schwartz and Schwartz (276) estimated 74,000 Pacific Golden-Plovers overwintering in main Hawaiian Islands; Giffin and Medeiros (364) estimated 15,173 Pacific Golden-Plovers on island of Oahu. Up to 500 estimated on Wake Atoll (193). Population wintering in southwestern and south-central Asia probably numbers c. 100,000 birds (365), and in east-central and southeastern Asia at least 100,000 birds. The number of Pacific Golden-Plover at the southern limit of the overwintering range is relatively small, on the order of 6,500 in Australia (possibly as high as 9,000, with just 250 in northern Western Australia;366), and 1,000 or less in New Zealand (112, 367, 164).

Estimated densities on the breeding grounds vary significantly between regions and from year-to-year: 0.1–6.7 pairs/km2 on Yamal, Taimyr, and Chukchi Peninsulas, and Koryak Mountains, Russia (37); 0.5–7.5 pairs/km2 on northwestern Taimyr Peninsula (59, 325, 60, 61, 304, 170); 0–10.25 males, nests, and broods/km2 across Siberian nesting range (101); 2–5 pairs/km2 on Lena Delta, Russia (325, 323); 0.66 pairs/km2 in the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska, 1988–1992 (262); and 2.0 pairs/km2 on the Seward Peninsula in 1993 (OWJ). Nesting densities of Pacific Golden-Plovers are higher than those listed above possibly occur in unusually favorable habitats, however reports of “up to 80 birds/km2” (141) are unlikely. Estimated densities on the overwintering grounds: 0.22–44.7 birds/ha in various habitats ranging from forest trails to coastal mudflats, Oahu (267, 364), 1.4 birds/ha on golf courses, Oahu (368), 1.5–2.2 birds/ha on lawns at the National Cemetery of the Pacific, Oahu (159), 8.0 birds/ha on slopes of Mauna Kea at 2,380 m elevation, Hawaii Island (152), and 3.0 birds/ha on a golf course, American Samoa (158).


The overall population trend for the Pacific Golden-Plover is uncertain as there are no accurate trend data from either the breeding or non-breeding ranges; increased population monitoring is needed (see 163). Morrison et al. (369) indicated that the North American population is in decline, and Andres et al. (363) stated that the trend for North America is unknown. Possible declines in Australia and New Zealand (370, 371, 372, 164, 192) may be due to “short-stopping” elsewhere (see Habitat: Habitat in Nonbreeding Range). If declining, populations may be falling for various reasons (see Conservation and Management: Effects of Human Activity), but objective assessments will require intensive systematic monitoring at stopover areas and on breeding and non-breeding grounds.

Population Regulation

Little specific information. Likely factors include vagaries of weather and food supply on breeding grounds (as reflected by variation in nesting densities), egg and chick depredation, loss of juveniles from rigors of first migration and competition on overwintering grounds, depredation on overwintering range, and unfavorable weather during migrations. Aside from these factors, there is the specter of climate change and other anthropogenic impacts (see Conservation and Management).

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