Circular migration route discovered
Geolocators reveal the Pacific Golden-Plover's transoceanic travels
Published: October 16, 2012
New research on the Pacific Golden-Plover has revealed a previously unknown circular transoceanic migration route that covers 9,900 to 14,900 miles per year.
A Pacific Golden-Plover stands on lava shores in Maui.
The shorebird nests in far western Alaska and across most of northern Russia. Wintering areas include eastern Africa, India, Indonesia, Saipan, Australia, Hawaii, the South Pacific, and coastal California. Previous studies had documented a long north-south migration for plovers that winter in Hawaii and breed in Alaska.
From 2009 to 2011, an international team of researchers used tiny geolocators to track birds from Pacific islands such as American Samoa and from nesting areas near Nome, Alaska.
Birds that wintered on American Samoa, which is located approximately 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii, flew in spring to a stopover in Japan before continuing their migration to Alaska. Stopovers lasted on average 22 days; the scientists say the birds most likely spent the time foraging in rice fields.
In fall, the birds departed breeding areas and flew to feeding spots on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and elsewhere in southwestern Alaska, where they remained for about 23 days. They then flew south to American Samoa, covering 6,100 miles in six and a half days.
Birds nesting near Nome followed a similar annual route and wintered on South Pacific islands such as Fiji.
A group of 14 researchers from four nations reported the findings in July in the Wader Study Group Bulletin.