Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2006-33a

Common name:

Pacific Golden-plover

Scientific name: Pluvialis fulva
Date: September 2, 2006
Time: 12:35 pm
Length of time observed: 2 hours
Number: 1
Age: adult
Sex: unknown
Location: Antelope Island Causeway, Mile Marker 5, north side
County: Davis
Latilong: N 4105.362 W11209.416
Elevation: 4200 feet
Distance to bird: about 100 feet
Optical equipment: 80 mm spotting scope with 30x eyepiece Nikon Fieldscope III
Weather: Clear and sunny day, almost no noticeable breeze, 75 degrees
Light Conditions: Excellent
Description:        Size of bird: About 10 inches as judged against an American Avocet who was in the area
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Medium sized shorebird, front heavy, upright
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Golden wash above, buffy face, whitish/buffy eye stripe, Upper body dark brown with orange and lighter colored specks and some whitish streaking, lower body/breast has splotches of black, white undertail (with some dark splotches)
(Description:)            Bill Type: Black Bill, about two thirds the width of the head, short bill for shorebird, thin (but more robust than American Golden Plover (AGP) bill, and thicker at the base.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
 The bird is in non-breeding plumage and the molt is incomplete. It has dark splotches on the breast and lower belly (suggesting that it is an adult).

Head: the bill is black, thin, and in length about 2/3 the width of the head, thicker at the base. The head is gold washed and buffy in the face with a buffy/yellowish supercillium. There is a dark cheek spot. The crown is dark and there is a stripe (yellowish/buffy in color) that extends down the neck, but does not go into the flank area (I took photos of the bird and this stripe is evident in the photo showing the bird from a side angle). The eyes are black and appeared large in relation
to the rest of the head.

Main body: The back is dark brown with the feather edges tinged with orange or yellowish color. It appeared as if the back was sprinkled with orange flecks, but the overall dark brown color of the back appeared to have a golden tinge to the color. The underparts are grayish with dark black splotches. A couple of dark sploches could be seen behind the legs. The undertail coverts are white. The legs are gray. The bird was standing in water near the edge of the mudflat and I could not accurately gauge leg length. The wing tip just barely projects beyond the tail and the gap between the tertials and wing tips is minimal, almost the same length. From the photo I took of the rear of the bird the gap between the wing tip and tertials is very small. I did not get more than a brief glimpse of the underwing, but they appeared to be gray. The outer primaries appear to be worn and the inner primaries appear to be fresh. The bird has started molting before reaching the wintering grounds. During the time that I watched the bird, it was mostly stationary (only moved a few feet in two hours), appeared to be upright, and spent a lot of time standing on one leg. I mailed a separate package to the Records Committee that included six photos showing the bird from every angle, including the top of the head and nape.
Song or call & method of delivery: Did not hear the bird
Behavior: Bird was mostly stationary, did not move more than a few feet in the two hours that I watched the bird.
Habitat: In the shallow water next to the mud flats along the Antelope Island Causeway at Mile Marker 5
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Similar in body shape to AGP, but the PGP has lightly larger bill and appears to be more front heavy, more upright, and more golden colored. I believe that AGP in non-breeding plumage
is grayer and browner in body color. The eye line, or eyebrow, on the AGP is whiter than the PGP and the eyeline on this PGP is yellowish/buffy colored and turns down in the rear. The AGP waits until it is at the wintering ground before it starts molting, this PGP has already started the molt. The AGP has a more pronounced gap between the wing tips and the tertials and the wing tips extend a greater distance beyond the tail. The Black Bellied Plover (BBP) is a larger bird than the PGP, and is more stocky/potbellied than the PGP. In non-breeding plumage the BBP is mostly gray with some white speckling in the upperparts.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
This is my first experience with PGP, but I am familiar with the BBP.
References consulted: The Sibley Guide to Birds; The Shorebird Guide; Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion; Shorebirds of North America-The Photographic Guide
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Buck and Cindy Russell
Observer's address: 967 West 330 South, Logan, UT 84321
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: After my wife and I located the bird and made some photos, I walked down the causeway and brought Susan Saffle, Carol Gwynn, Kathy Roach, and Letitia Lussier to see the bird. They then called Kris Purdy and others to alert them about the bird. Kris Purdy independently identified the bird as PGP and has sent an email to Utah Birdtalk to this effect.
Date prepared: September 2, 2006
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: I first submitted this form on September 2, 2006, but there were problems with the web site and Milt Moody asked me re-submit the form on September 7th. I mailed a separate package with six photos that I took of the bird. Paul Higgins took his photo a couple of hours after I took my photos. Paul's photos are far superior to mine and clearly show the tail area of the bird and the small gap between the wing tips and tertials.