Identification of pluvialis plovers

Identification of pluvialis plovers

In this article we’re going to deal with the sound identification of the four “Pluvialis” plover :

  • Grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
  • American Golden plover (Pluvialis dominica)
  • Eurasian Golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
  • Pacific Golden plover (Pluvialis fulva)

The four species produce diagnostic flight calls and alarm calls. As the visual identification is often difficult (the best criteria being the axillaries and underwing covert), vocalizations can help to confirm the identification.

1.Grey plover

The call is a long continuous whistling call :

Call of a Grey lover : a long monotonous whistling note with a little lower median part and two legs.
  • A long monotonous upcurved note around 3kHz, with a low amplitude around the medium frequency (<0.5kHz)
  • Long : often more than 0.4s
  • A short ascending upcurved leg starting at 2kHz just before the monotonous note and a short descending straight leg at the end.

2.European golden plover

Call of a European golden plover : an extremely monotonous short call around 2.5 – 3kHz
  • Extremely monotonous : a straight note around 2.5-3 kHz (with often a well-defined harmonic around 5 kHz) Sometimes a second long step at the end, but even if there are several syllables, each of them remains monotonous.
  • About 0.3s long, often short

3.American golden plover

Sonogram of an American golden plover : a highly modulated call in comparison to Grey and European golden plovers. The harmonics can be well-defined as in this case.
  • Modulated call,with oscillations between 2 and 4 kHz : globally higher-pitched than the two previous plovers  (4kHz).
  • Shorter than Grey plover (<0.4s).
  • The emphasis is on the first syllable (compare to Pacific golden plover)
  • There are often several steps (a higher and a lower-pitched). Sometimes the lower step can be short or attenuated so that it can look as a central third leg on the spectrogram. Each step is not as monotonous (i.e straight) as in Golden plover.

4.Pacific golden plover

The call is most similar to American golden plover, but the emphasis is put on the second syllable, which is globally ascending and higher-pitched than the first one.


Sonogram of a Pacific golden plover. The call is modulated and emphasized on the second syllable.
Pacific golden plover. Sometimes the fist syllable appears to be detached from the second one.
  • Modulated call,with oscillations between 2 and 3.5 kHz : globally lower-pitched than American golden plover.
  • Shorter than Grey plover (<0.4s).
  • The emphasis is on the higher-pitched second syllable (compare to American golden plover)10


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