My graduate school Alma Mater is the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and let me tell you, the campus is positively covered with Pacific golden-plovers, especially during the months of the standard school year (apparently, the lanky, mottled-gold little guys “winter” in Hawaii and on other Pacific islands, but breed in Siberia and Alaska from May through July). Here’s the funny thing, though… I never before really thought of them as shorebirds. UHM is up in the valley, a good 30 to 40 minute walk from the shore. However, according to pretty much everything I’ve found, they are shorebirds, and they’re usually referred to as “waders” by books and articles. So, basically my project for today is figuring out on what shores they can be found.
The first place I found a note about the Pacific golden-plovers on an actual shore was on the state of Hawaii’s government website. The quote is as follows: “estimated wintering densities range from 0.22 to 44.7 birds per hectare in wild habitats such as forest trails and coastal mudflats.” So that’s it! They like mudflats. No wonder I’ve seen so few of them on the soft sands. Incidentally, I added the bold, italic, and underline in the above quote (for dramatic emphasis, of course ^_^. Watch for a repeat performance). It’s not, strictly speaking, part of the quote. On a different note, the line that immediately follows that quote is “densities in developed habitats in Hawai‘i have been estimated as 1.4 birds per hectare on golf courses and 5.2 birds per hectare on lawns,” and honestly, I strongly associate them with UHM’s lawns. It’s all coming together!
Next, I found this on the Audubon WatchList website: “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.” There we have it! The Audubon Society should know what they’re talking about, right? And here they are saying that Pacific golden-plovers can be found on beaches! I guess I need to work on keeping my eyes open and trying to spot one on a beach, rather than on somebody’s front lawn. I should have plenty of opportunity, goodness knows, because they can be found all over the place. The Audubon site says that “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.” It looks like Australia and New Zealand are included in the term “South Pacific” here, because the article lists both of those countries as places the bird can be spotted. That gives the birdwatchers of the world one heck of a lot of coastline to comb!
If you happen to spot a Pacific golden-plover on a coast somewhere, please drop us a line! We’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories. If you simply want to brag a bit, there’s always the comment block below, as well. Mahalo, and have a great day at the beach- E.G.D.