[Plovers] Possible European Golden Plover at Mai Po

Possible European Golden Plover at Mai Po

On the falling tide at Mai Po today was a bird that MAY have been a European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria). I initially saw the bird close to the Jockey Club Hide (one of the two central hides), and later at a greater distance from the southern (HKBWS) hide. John Holmes was able to get record shots, but unfortunately the bird was not showing too well at the time. If accepted this would be the first record for Hong Kong.

It was mostly associating with Grey Plovers, but was seen in direct comparison with Pacific Golden Plover (PGP). There are several hundred Grey and PGP at Mai Po at the moment, and separation of this bird from PGP was very difficult. The following features were noted which seem to support ID as European Golden:
- Size clearly larger than PGP, approaching Grey Plover. Appeared fairly bulky-bodied.
- Shorter, thicker neck and smaller head that PGP, again resembling Grey. Head possibly rounder than PGP.
- Head pattern poorly marked: supercilium not obvious, dark 'cheek-spot' rather faint when seen in profile (although more obvious at certain angles)
- Wings extending close to tail tip, tertial shorter (3 or 4 primary tips visible). PGP with fewer visible primaries, some with none.
- Legs apparently shorter than PGP.
- Bill possibly shorter than PGP
- Upperparts (mantle, scapulars, tertials) neatly marked with narrow yellow fringes and darker notches (yellow notches not as large as on PGP)
- Seen in flight when flushed, but exact pattern not clear (underwing pattern should be diagnostic).

It is possible that the bird will be back during the upcoming good tides in the rest of this week. When looking for this bird in the field, I would recommend looking particularly for the body size, head/neck profile and wing structure. Based on today's behaviour, it may be better to check in the Grey Plover than among the larger numbers of PGP. It was not easy to pick out among the other plovers, so good luck!


Possible European Golden Plover

12th Feb 2012

1D MKIV + 800mm + 1.4x

My apologies to the other photographers present, John and I were still discussing the "bigger" Golden Plover when the whole flock moved off....

Possible European Golden Plover at the middle right of the top photo, a Pacific Golden Plover middle left.

[ Last edited by John Holmes at 12/02/2013 17:26 ]


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Thank you ajohn for pointing out the features of a European Golden Plover.  The plover I saw was different from a PGP. The following pictures were taken at HKBWS hide at about 13:00 today.

[ Last edited by quaali at 12/02/2013 18:15 ]


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It looks promisingly fat and short-legged!

Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee


Sorry quaali, I think the bird you photographed is a Pacific Golden Plover. Note that the head pattern is fairly well marked (especially the pbvious black 'spot' on the rear of the ear coverts. Details of the structure also do not fit the bird I saw - note that the neck is slim, so that the head looks 'stuck onto' the body (on the European the neck was much broader, more conituous with the body), also the bill looks rather long. Leg length is difficult to judge on this photo, but the body is held more horizontally than the bird I saw. This bird also seems to be at a different stage of moult (yellower above) and looks fairly small (relative to the surrounding Dunlin).

I would like to add to John's apologies for not getting other photographers onto the bird - when I found the larger bird from the HKBWS hide, I was initially unsure if it was the same as the one I had seen earlier (as it was sleeping several features were not visible) and while I was trying to establish if it was, the whole flock suddenly flushed a long way off. It was only seen from that hide for a couple of minutes (although longer at the Jockey Club hide earlier).

I understand it was not found on the high tide today.


Thank you ajohn for your concrete explantions. I will screen other pictures I took.