Pacific Golden-Plover Pluvialis fulva Scientific name definitions

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

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

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Vocal Array

Known repertoires are incomplete. Many vocalizations of Pacific Golden-Plover and American Golden-Plover are similar, but often distinctive during breeding and non-breeding seasons. Nine types of vocalizations described here. On 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 including (3) Alarm/Distraction, (4) Aggression Calls, (5) Courtship Calls, and (6) Intrapair Calls. In 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” (82) or “song” (37). Given during Butterfly Display (see Behavior: Spacing) and differs strikingly between species. In American Golden-Plover, an abrupt tlink or tdlink [also described as tud'ling (277), toojick (278), ktoodlee (279), chu-leek or too-lick (56), and tulik or ptulick (37)] repeated at rates of 50–130/min (85, 82; see Figure 3A); in Pacific Golden-Plover, a plaintive pee-chew-ee [also described as pee-er-wee (J. T. Nichols in 42), tee-tyu-eet (150), and ptee-oo-leeee (37) at rates of 15–40/min (85, 82; see Figure 3B).

Complex Whistle. Also termed “long call” (47), “song” (82), or “trilling song” (37). A musical call 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 (85; see Figure 3C and Figure 3D). Not uncommon to hear variations in which ≥ 1 syllables are repeated or slightly altered. Drury (279) described several versions of American Golden-Plover Complex Whistle, including tsee-witwit-tsee, ka-sweeeooowit, and kloo tswit-tswit kloo; Byrkjedal and Thompson (37) likened it to witt-wee-wyu-witt-witt. Others have described Pacific Golden-Plover call as piterweeu, piterweeu, piterwit or peeperwip, peeperweeu, peeperwip, noting similarity to calls of the Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus) (J. T. Nichols in 42); as quee quee que yah, queequeequeeah, de de dee yah, and kwe kwe kwee oih (47); as teep-teeyu-veet-veet-teeyu-veet (150); and t‘wee-witt-wiy-wyu-witt-wju (37).

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 (85; see Figure 3E), kill-ee-oh kill-ee or pull-ee-oo plee-ee (280), te-tee-duiee (278), kleeear and turdileee (279). In Pacific Golden-Plover, peee (varies from shorter to more drawn-out versions; OWJ) shifting with increasing threat to deedleek (85; see Figure 3F), or pfeeb shifting to pfeebleeb or deedleek (47). 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: Spacing). Alarm/Distraction Calls similar but probably not identical in both sexes. The peee or pfeeb call characteristic of breeding Pacific Golden-Plovers is occasionally given by pre-migrants nearing departure from Hawaii (OWJ).

Aggression Calls. Those of American Golden-Plover on ground reported same as Alarm/Distraction vocalizations (279); in Pacific Golden-Plover, a chattering but melodic de rede rede rederedere (47). During aggressive aerial pursuit chases of American Golden-Plover, pursuer calls tdlinkit-tdlinkit (85; see Figure 3G), or toodleeka-toodleeka (279) and pumps head vigorously; no comparable call detected in Pacific Golden-Plover.

Courtship Calls. Captive Pacific Golden-Plover males courting on ground gave soft trilled teeree teeree and bursts of pk pk pk (47); not yet described in American Golden-Plover.

Intrapair Calls. Subtle, undetected calls likely used by both species in intrapair communication. In Pacific Golden-Plovers, occasional very soft peee or pfeeb calls given by both members of pairs during foraging (OWJ), also Byrkjedal and Thompson (37) described pyt sounds by pair members during pre-laying interactions.

Nonbreeding Season

Flight Calls. Vary in both species. Urner (281) lists extensive “vocabulary” of 20 calls for migrating American Golden-Plovers; most frequently heard were whistled que and que-del. More recent descriptions (282, 13) as follows: for American Golden-Plover, tyy-ee or tuu-ee, also tuu-u-ee and tu-uu-ee (282), queedle (13); for Pacific Golden-Plover, chu-it, chu-eet, or chu-ee (uh) (282), chuwi or chuweedle (13). 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 (282), sharp pseeep (OWJ), or wheet (13). Additional observations (OWJ): Alström and Paulson renditions are consistent with Pacific Golden-Plover alarm vocalizations on overwintering grounds in Hawaii; 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). Calls melodious and varied: pseer, sweerit, psweer, psweer-wit, pswer-pswer-pswerrr-wit-wit (283, OWJ). Of these, the longer versions are either the same or very similar to Complex Whistle of breeding birds.

According to Miller (82), there are obvious homologies between the Repetitive Call and Complex Whistle of Pacific Golden-Plover and American Golden-Plover, with the Repetitive Call being “ancestral to the genus.” Additional information on breeding and non-breeding vocalizations (mostly minor variations) can be found in numerous sources, the most useful probably being Pym (28) and Cramp and Simmons (20).

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 preincubation phase of breeding cycle. According to Byrkjedal and Thompson (37), 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 are heard only during flight; Complex Whistle and Aggression Calls given mostly from ground, occasionally in flight; Courtship and Intrapair Calls primarily given on the ground, possibly during flight; Alarm/Distraction Calls given from ground only; Alarm Calls given 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. Use of shed caribou (Rangifer tarandus) antlers “as territorial perches” by Pacific Golden-Plover has been reported on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska (63). Presumably, any elevation, however slight, facilitates responses when threatened by intruder. Aerial calls, especially Repetitive Call, are 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.

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

Some vocalizations of American and Pacific golden-plovers (sonograms from Connors et al. 1993). 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, Byrkjedal and Thompson 1998.

Alternate (breeding) male Pacific Golden-Plover alarm-calling near nest.

Nome, Alaska, 26 June 2008. Photographer Mark D. Johnson.

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