Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2006-33

Common name:

Pacific Golden-plover

Scientific name: Pluvialis fulva
Date: September 2, 2006
Time: 3:30 pm
Length of time observed: 2 ½ hours
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Unknown
Location: Antelope Island Causeway, .1 mile west of mm 5, north side
County: Davis
Latilong: Border of 2 and 5. N 41°05.362’ W112°09.415’
Elevation: 4200 feet
Distance to bird: 90 feet according to distance meter in a Nikon 800mm F5.6 lens
Optical equipment: 85 mm spotting scope with 20-60x eyepiece
Weather: Warm and sunny, light breeze
Light Conditions: Bright but harsh; softened as afternoon waned
Description:        Size of bird: 10-11 inches
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Chunky shorebird
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Dark brown upperparts spangled with orange and whitish; black, dull grayish and white mottled underparts
(Description:)            Bill Type: Short for a shorebird; thin and finely tipped
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Bare parts:
Bill: Black. Narrow, sharp, slight curve down at distal end of upper mandible. Bill was about 2/3 as long as the head from the front to back.
Legs: Medium gray

Forehead: Whitish continuing down though the lores next to base of bill.
Crown: Dominant color was dark brown flecked with tiny spots of orange-buff. Contrast between dark crown and pale well-defined supercilium made crown look like a cap.
Supercilium: Thick and whitish above the eye; faint buff tinge at supraloral and just aft of eye where stripe curves down. Continued down less distinctly between brown auricular spot and nape; petered out at base of neck.

Face: Brown smudge directly in front of the eye. Eye large and dark. Prominent brown auricular spot. Below eye: Pale brown in shade; yellowish in bright light.

Nape: Similar to crown but lighter.

Back and scapulars: Dark brown centers of feathers, heavily notched with orange or deep buff (not yellow, not buff, not whitish). Notches on some feathers were so long they almost formed a continuous orange edge.
Wing coverts: Slightly paler brown than scapulars, notched with pale tan.
Folded wing feathers looked paler brown than back/scapulars and not marked along edges.
Tertials: Two were dark brown and notched with orange. The third was narrow, paler brown, no notches visible. Tertials and tail tip were nearly the same length—tertials just a tiny bit shorter.
Wingtips projected past the tail a very short distance—estimate ¼ inch.
Could not determine how many primary tips projected past the longest tertial.
Uppertail coverts: Dark brown, heavily spotted with orange.
Retrices: Paler brown than coverts; spotted or notched with tan.

Tiny whitish area on chin tucked below lower mandible.
Throat and Upper Breast: Same pale brown as face
Lower Breast and Belly: Mottled black and dull grayish.
Sides: Irregularly spotted white and black.
Flanks: Smudged pale tan and whitish.
Aft of legs: Mostly white; a few black spots
Undertail coverts: White.
Underwings: Pale gray, including axillaries.
(See photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None heard.
Behavior: Bird rested most of the time standing or sitting. Preferred to settle next to small clumps of vegetation or a desiccated bird carcass. Sometimes the plover’s eye closed and its head slumped forward onto the ground like a person nodding off to sleep, but it only remained that way for a couple seconds. The bird stretched frequently—left wing and left foot, then right wing and right foot. Also stretched both wings up high and extended head and neck low and forward. Picked up a few bugs and ate them.
Habitat: Edge of mudflat where sloping rocky/weedy causeway meets dry mud.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Black-bellied Plover (BBPL): BBPL would have a heavier bill, clean white aft of the legs in all plumages and black axillaries.

American Golden-plover (AMGP): AMGP is longer-winged and wingtips should project more noticeably beyond the tail. Primary projection past the longest tertial should also be longer due to the longer wings than what showed on review bird. Review bird’s tertials were nearly as long as the tail, a characteristic good for Pacific Golden-plover (PAGP) and not for AMGP. Review bird’s plumage heavily notched with orange giving a gold tone at a distance; characteristic is better for PAGP than for AMGP. Review bird had strong, dark brown auricular spot; AMGP’s is weaker. Characteristic better for PAGP.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
Have seen thousands of PAGPs before I was a discriminating birder; none since becoming a born again birder. Have seen three basic-plumaged AMGPs in Utah in the past 2 years and thousands of BBPLs in all plumages in the last 4 years.
References consulted: Paulson’s Shorebirds of North America, Utah Birds listserv analyses.
Description from: Notes at time of sighting
Observer: Kristin M. Purdy
Observer's address: 1961 Arapaho Circle Ogden, UT 84403
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Buck and Cindy Russell, Susan Saffle, Carol Gwynn, Kathy Roach, Letitia Lussier, Paul Higgins
Date prepared: September 2, 2006
Additional material: Photos by Paul Higgins
Additional comments: Written account was made from first-person observation independently of photos. Extensive detail on some feathers included to establish molt status. The following feathers appeared to be retained alternate: Black on underparts, pale wing coverts, a very few scattered scapulars and back feathers, flight feathers except for two fresh tertials.