[va-bird] Notes on golden-plovers


Now that Pacific Golden-Plovers are documented from four states to our north=
=20
on the Atlantic coast (as well as from Greenland, Bermuda, and the West=20
Indies), we should be on the lookout for them in our local flocks here.  A t=
rue=20
skeptic would say that we haven't "really" identified any of our local=20
golden-plovers as American Golden-Plovers until we carefully eliminate the o=
ther two=20
species.  Eurasian/European Golden-Plover tends to stand out nicely in my=20
experience with the species (annually in Iceland), and a single American sta=
nds out=20
nicely in a flock of Europeans.  I have never seen a Pacific Golden-Plover,=20
however, and I have often thought it would be too difficult to separate one=20=
from a=20
flock of Americans.  Virginia does get its share of visitors from Siberia an=
d=20
western Alaska, however, so it would be good for state birders to be prepare=
d=20
to identify a Pacific Golden-Plover.  Most field guides provide only partial=
=20
clues to the field separation of the two. =20

Birders fortunate enough to see the recent Pacific Golden-Plover on Long=20
Island were kind enough to pass on their observations of the differences bet=
ween=20
the two, which I list out below.  Some of these marks will be difficult to m=
ake=20
out at a distance (especially the number of exposed primaries past the=20
tertials, one of the "gold" standards for distinguishing the species), but o=
thers=20
are straightforward and could be used at medium distances to narrow down the=
=20
list of candidates.  The list of 15 points includes (field characters pertai=
ning=20
mostly to adults):

1)  The absence of an (elevated) hind toe automatically eliminates=20
Black-bellied Plover.

2)  Having ascertained it's a golden-plover, and you see it in flight, check=
=20
to if the toes extend beyond the tail, a good mark for Pacific, which is=20
longer-legged than American.=20

3)  The bill of Pacific looks big without a smaller, swollen, pointed tip.

4)  The legs of Pacific are and look longer than American=E2=80=99s, especia=
lly above=20
the heel.
=20
5)  Pacific has very long tertials, but especially if there are

6)  only 2-3 primaries (instead of 4) showing beyond them, leading to

7)  a very blunt-ended rear and an overall shape much more like a=20
Black-bellied (accentuated by the big bill).

8)  When viewed form the rear, the broad dark nape band is essentially=20
=E2=80=9Cunpinched in=E2=80=9D and assuredly not narrow (compare this to any=
 American). =20
=20
9)  If visible (and it will sometimes not be, as the underpart/breast=20
feathers can overlap here), the white stripe down the side is complete to th=
e=20
crissum, contra American.
=20
10)  The crissum is always totally white with NO black feathers, contra=20
American.
=20
11)  The pileum is weak and diffuse (no yarmulke effect whatsoever), contra=20
American.
=20
12)  The white eyestripe tends to drop down very quickly behind=20
the eye, contra American. =20
=20
13)  The notches on the tertials are smaller and more numerous than in=20
American. =20

14)  In flight, the wings do not look as sleek as American=E2=80=99s.=20

15)  The back spotting may look a bit different if the bird is mixed in with=
=20
Americans. =20

Maybe one day!

Ned Brinkley
Cape Charles, VA
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