Mongolian Plover
Eel River Wildlife Area (Ocean Ranch)
Humboldt County, California
2 October 1998

Soon after arriving at the Western Field Ornithologists' Annual Meeting in Arcata, I learned that Steve Howell had found a Mongolian Plover at the Eel River Wildlife Area at the south end of Humboldt Bay. I made arrangements to drive down in the afternoon with Luke Cole, Tom Leskiw and others hoping to see the bird. A large crowd had assembled when we arrived, but had not yet seen the bird. After many hours of climbing fences, walking muddy levees, wading in the water, etc. Gary Rosenberg located the bird at about 5pm in a pond south of the barn and I managed to get several brief and distant views through Luke's new KOWA spotting scope.

The Mongolian Plover was slightly larger than adjacent Semipalmated Plovers and differed from them in its lack of a white collar around the back of the neck and broader warmer brown breast patches. It also seemed to have a distinct white throat and upper chest which outlined the upper edge of the breast band and the lower face very distinctly. The legs seemed longer and slightly duller green in color. Otherwise the upperparts were a uniform brown, slightly paler than adjacent Semipalmated Plovers. Soon a Peregrine spooked the flock and we were able to view the Mongolian Plover in flight directly overhead through binoculars. Here the warm buffy coloration of the breast patches was evident as well as the fact the the breast batches blended with the whitish underparts rather than being sharply defined as was the case with the Semipalmated Plovers. The slightly larger size of the Mongolian Plover was also evident in flight, making the bird somewhat easier to pick out. In flight, the underwings appeared white.

My first impression on seeing the bird was that it was probably an adult because the breast patches did not appear particularly bright, but on further consideration, it may well have been a dull juvenile. It closely resembled the photo of the juvenile on page 92 of "Photographic Guide to Shorebirds of the World" by Rosair and Cottridge.

The bird appeared to have a rather short bill and the bird was only marginally larger than the Semipalmated Plovers. In this respect it more closely resembled a Mongolian Plover, Charadrius mongolicus, than the Great Sandplover, Charadrius leschenaultii which has never been recorded in North America.

Joseph Morlan
380 Talbot Avenue #206
Pacifica, CA 94044