a publication of Sungei Buloh Nature Park

Vol 8 No 3
Dec 2001

chek jawa's
wet wonderland

aqua-tion for life roles of
water in life

where water
meets the lands
fishes of the Park

dispersal by h2o
seeds dispersed by water

some interesting notes on the pacific golden plover

10th international coastal cleanup 2001 and 5th mangrove cleanup

young ecologists@
sungei buloh nature park

an ode to a turtle
some interesting notes on the
pacific golden plover
james gan
senior conservation officer

shares a significant discovery about the Pacific Golden Plover
Among the commoner shorebirds that flock to Sungei Buloh Nature Park every year is the medium sized, short billed Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva).

Measuring between 23 and 26cm in length, weights of these birds have been known to range from 100g to as much as 192g. Those measured at the park during shorebird ringing sessions in the year 2000 and 2001 (to date) had ranged trom 97g to 152g, with the heaviest weight recorded in April. This weight is due to the bird fattening up in preparation tor the migratory journey back to the breeding areas in northern Russia.
facts at a glance
Length: 23 to 26cm

100g to 192g

Molluscs, worms, crustaceans, insects, berries

Clutch has 4 eggs; Breed in June in northern Russia

Fly in large flocks and at night

Oldest Known Bird Ringed from Sungei Buloh:
81 months (about 7 years)

Flying Feats:
Can fly 4,500km non-stop!

At least 100,000 wintering in East Asia

A rather nondescript brownish bird, the adult plover exhibits two distinctive plumage in one year. In Sungei Buloh, the winter plumage of brown and some golden spangling on the wings is the one normally seen. However, during late July and August when the first plovers arrive at Sungei Buloh and especially in April when the last few birds fly off to their breeding areas, one can usually spot some individuals in full breeding plumage. These birds stand out because of the colouration of their plumage: a beautiful black from face to belly, a richer, brighter golden spangling on the wings and a prominent white border from the supercilium to the flanks.

What do the plovers do when they are at the park? We have observed feeding and roosting behaviour. They can most often be seen on the mudflats pecking for worms, molluscs and crustaceans or standing on earth bunds to wait out the tide. Interestingly, at their breeding grounds, plovers are known to feed mostly on insects such as beetles and even berries such as crowberries.

Shorebird ringing sessions at Sungei Buloh have borne fruit as previously ringed birds have been recovered. The oldest retrap was one ringed on 12 jan 1994 and caught 81 months (about 7 years) later on 12 Oct 2000. This record supports studies by researchers that these plovers are highly faithful to their wintering sites. It also suggests that Singapore, and in particular Sungei Buloh, is the ultimate winter destination for some of these birds.

A Pacific Golden Plover ringed at Sungei Buloh has also been recovered overseas. A bird ringed on 10 Jan 1996 was recovered on 22 May 1998 in the Russian province of Yakutia. This recovery provides clear evidence that by end May, birds are well on their way to the northern breeding areas of the tundra in Chukotskiy and Koryakskiy highlands. In fact, researchers have noted that the plover appears on the Siberian breeding grounds in early June. Hence the recovery of the plover in late May in Yakutia suggest that it was well on schedule to appear on the Siberian tundra in early June.

Upon reaching their breeding site, plovers stake out their territories. Breeding territories can be large—up to half a square kilometer per breeding pair. They are thought to be monogamous. Amazingly, it is known that male birds are faithful to the nest site, often breeding within 100m of the previous year's nest site and sometimes even in the same nest cup.

Nests are simple and are shallow scrapes lined with lichen. Four eggs are usually laid with incubation taking 26 days. Upon hatching, young are able to fly in just over 22 days! That means that in just about 2 months, breeding can be completed and the birds can prepare to leave for the southward migration.

A general pattern of the numbers of Pacific Golden Plover in the Park throughout the year has emerged through regular shorebird census conducted by conservation staff from the park.

The counting of shorehird numbers during the census in the year 200 and 2001 has revealed day counts averaging 400 Pacific Golden Plovers in the Park during high tide between Septernber and March. In early April, counts increased dramatically to 6oo with records of maximum counts of up to 1,100 birds on certain days. By mid and end April, counts were down to 100 and decreased dramatically to zero in just a week or two. Between May and July, birds were absent from the park which is not unexpected as they would have returned to their breeding areas in northern Russia.

With the continuation of regular shorebird census, the Park hopes to pick out additional meaningful patterns in the shorebird numbers over the years. The field data, all of which were collected during regular shorehird ringing sessions, contributed a bit more towards the understanding of the biology of the migratory shorehirds. In particular, we have learnt more about the abundance and distribution of the Pacific Golden Plover in Sungei Buloh during the course of a year. The data collected are invaluable for the continued conservation management of Sungei Buloh Nature Park.

Comments or feedback? e-mail me.

Brooke M. & Birkhead T. 1991. The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Ornithology Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. & Sargatal, J. eds (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona.
Wells, D. R. 1999. The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Vol I. Academic Press, San Diego.
© Sungei Buloh Nature Park