Date: 11/21/20 9:06 am
From: Robert Righter <rorighter...>
Subject: [cobirds] An explanation how European Golden-Plover made it to Maxwell NWR, NM

As reported by television station KRQE, Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 1st, 2020, a European Golden-Plover was discovered at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, twenty five miles south of the Colorado border.

The core of the European Golden-Plover breeding range extends from Iceland across northern Europe to central Russia, and its winter range is from Great Britain, western Europe and north Africa to Asia. Significant numbers of Golden-Plovers that breed in Iceland, which would be the closest breeding range to North America, originated from their wintering grounds in Great Britain, western Europe, and western North Africa.

It is known that some spring migrants heading to Iceland become disoriented and instead of landing in Iceland, and with the help from the prevailing north-east winds, will continue until they find the first land. Many times this would be North America, mainly Newfoundland, Canada, where most of the European Golden-Plovers have been recorded. Where they go after that is not known; however it is strongly suspected the Golden-Plovers that make first land in the Canadian polar latitudes would then be aided in traveling further west by an east-to-west prevailing winds. It is also thought that since there are very few European Golden Plover records in Alaska, that those Alaskan records could actually have been birds originating as Iceland-Greenland over shoots and not from individuals drifting over from Asia. It is unlikely therefore that the Maxwell NWR European Golden-Plover originated from Asia.

Now let us assume, by whatever route, a European Golden-Plover made its way to the central interior of Canada during summer. Food is abundant and there are other shorebirds around sharing information. Since most of its needs are met, there would be little advantage continuing to fly further west particularly over those forbidding Rocky Mountains. Summer is now winding down, food is becoming scarce, frost is entering the ground and the Golden-Plover’s internal biology is suggesting that it is time to move south. Following the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains offers a reasonable path south. After many stops for food and rest the plover flies over the Colorado-New Mexico border, starts descending and shortly has landed at Maxwell National Wildlife Refuge, where many cameras are now authenticating its presence. This incredible sighting represents the first interior record for North America, the first record for New Mexico, and the almost first record for Colorado.

Howell, N. G. Ian Lewington, Will Russell. 2014. Rare Birds of North America. Princeton University Press. 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey.

Newton. 2008. The Migration Ecology of Birds. Academic Press: London

Bob Righter
Denver CO

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