Tracking the migration of Pacific Golden-Plovers from nonbreeding grounds at Moorea, French Polynesia, using Pinpoint GPS-Argos tags

  • April 15, 2020
  • by Johnson, O.W., T.L. Tibbitts, M.F. Weber, D.R. Bybee, R.H. Goodwill, A.E. Bruner, E.J. Smith, E.L. Buss, T.Q.A. Waddell, D.C. Brooks, C.D. Smith & J.-Y. Meyer. 2020.


We used Pinpoint GPS-Argos tags to track migration of Pacific Golden-Plovers Pluvialis fulva in 2017 and 2018 from Moorea Island, at the extreme southeastern edge of the species’ winter range. Of 20 tagged birds, 13 uploaded locations during all or part of their northward migration. The birds departed in mid-April traveling a long (8,250–10,200 km) northwestward track. Ten individuals signaled from Japan, where they stopped over (or ‘staged’) for periods up to about one month. Almost all stopovers were on the island of Honshu, with coordinates indicating inland habitats, most likely rice fields. In May, at least nine of the plovers left Japan on a mid-length (3,200–5,400 km) northeastward track to the Bering Sea region, where one bird reported from a possible nesting site in Kamchatka Krai and eight from traditional breeding grounds (three from Chukotka, five from Alaska). Thereafter, contact with tags was intermittent and gradually lost. We received signals from only two individuals during fall migration; one bird flew 1,600 km southeast from Alaska before its tag ceased transmitting, and the other flew >8,600 km directly southward from its post-breeding site in southwest Alaska and made landfall in Samoa where transmissions ended. Throughout the study, lengthy transoceanic flights appeared to be nonstop, and the annual migratory pathway (though defined by only a single bird in fall) was circular. As we have shown in other studies, Japan emerges as a key stopover site for Pacific Golden-Plovers during northward migration.