Tracking Pacific Golden-Plovers Pluvialis fulva: transoceanic migrations between non-breeding grounds in Kwajalein, Japan and Hawaii and breeding grounds in Alaska and Chukotka


4 – 11

1 June 15

Oscar W. Johnson, Ronald R. Porter, Lauren Fielding, Michael F. Weber, Roger S. Gold, Roger H. Goodwill, Patricia M. Johnson (deceased), Andrea E. Bruner, Paul A. Brusseau, Nancy H. Brusseau, Kikiana Hurwitz, James Fox


Oscar W. Johnson
Dept. of Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA


Public Files

To learn more about transoceanic migrations of Pacific Golden-Plovers Pluvialis fulva, we tracked geolocator-equipped birds from non-breeding grounds at Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, and Hilo, Hawaiian Islands, and breeding grounds at Nome, Alaska. The annual travels of these plovers followed two pathways: 1) the Hilo birds made direct flights between Hawaii and Alaska in both spring and fall, and 2) the Kwajalein and Nome birds, with their non-breeding grounds in Oceania (far south of Hawaii’s latitude), traversed a much longer circular route to and from Alaska. This route included lengthy spring stopovers in Japan and return flights through the mid-Pacific in fall. The plovers on these two pathways did not disperse evenly across the nesting range in Alaska. Rather, birds traveling the direct route from Hawaii arrived earlier and nested farther south than birds arriving via the circular route from islands beyond Hawaii. Latitudinal separation between the two groups appears to occur at approximately 61°N on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Three of nine Kwajalein birds migrated to nesting grounds in Chukotka, thus confirming connectivity between the two regions. All of the transoceanic flights in this study were nonstop and typically wind-assisted at an average minimum migration speed of 49 kph over periods ranging from three to eight days. The stopovers recorded in Japan (average 23 days) likely indicate vital refueling for birds traveling northward from the Central and South Pacific. Most stopovers were on Honshu Island, and studies are needed there to better understand this component of the migratory cycle.