The present wintering range of the Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) includes the northeastern tip of Africa, southern Asia, to Australia and New Zealand and much of the Pacific Ocean. We summarize evidence from the oral history of “wilsternetters” (artisanal hunters using an ancient, specialized netting device to capture grassland-shorebirds in daytime), as well as written records, to suggest that, until quite recently the wintering range of the Pacific Golden Plover may even have included the southern North Sea coast, mainly in the north of The Netherlands. Near the Zuiderzee (a large Dutch estuary that was closed off from the sea in 1932 and is now known as Lake IJsselmeer), the birds came inland to roost during spring tides, often in the company of Dunlin (Calidris alpina). However, Pacific Golden Plover were usually captured much further inland after the onset of severe winter weather, apparently after the birds had started moving away from their normal coastal winter habitat. Uniquely, Pacific Golden Plover wintering so far west and north appeared to show adaptations to cold (a thick and rather downy plumage) and unpredictable feeding conditions (a large fat store in midwinter). These special life-history features may have made it a distinct subspecies. Whether Dutch engineering, i.e. the loss of the Zuiderzee, played a role in their disappearance is probably beyond investigation.
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Vol. 25 • No. 1