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A lapwing and its chick

If you ask most people where birds nest, they might guess in a tree, a hedge or in a nest box.

But more than half of our most threatened breeding bird species nest on or near the ground. That includes some of our much loved coastal birds such as ringed plovers, curlews, little terns and lapwings, as well as nightingales and nightjars.

Curlew chick

A curlew chick – one of our ground nesting species


Spending time in nature is great for our health and wellbeing, but this can cause extra challenges for ground nesting birds when the places where they nest become busy with visitors who may not realise birds are incubating their eggs and raising their chicks nearby.

An added challenge is that birds that nest on the ground tend to be really good at  camouflaging themselves and their eggs to stop them being spotted by predators. And this makes it even harder for us to notice if we’re getting too close for comfort.

A ringed plover on its nest

A ringed plover well-hidden on its nest

Well camouflaged lapwing eggs in a scrape on the ground

Expertly camouflaged lapwing eggs

Following the Bird Aware Coastal Code

The good news is that simply by following the Bird Aware Coastal Code, we’ll give these birds the best chance of thriving.

  • Look out for birds – be vigilant and observant walking along beaches
  • Move further away if birds become alert – if you think a bird has become aware of your presence, move away as quietly and quickly as possible.
  • Keep dogs alongside you – preferably on a lead when walking through countryside and along beaches during breeding season (March to August). By stopping our dogs from scaring birds from their nests, we’ll help keep eggs and fledglings warm and safe.
  • Follow requests on signs – you’ll see signs and sometimes fencing to alert you to about nesting birds on some important sites.

During nesting season it’s a particularly important to keep to main paths in the countryside or on the coast as ground nesting birds tend to establish their nests away from busy areas.

Beige line

Focus on ringed plovers

We’re lucky to have ringed plovers nesting on the Solent: one of the ground nesting species red listed for conservation concern.

Many ringed plovers head further north in the UK or to places like Scandinavia but some plucky pairs set up nests on shingle beaches on Hayling Island, East Head, Hook Spit and along the New Forest coast.

These are busy stretches of coastline and the ringed plovers find it a challenging place to have a successful breeding season. However in recent years they’ve been supported by a number of projects to protect the areas where they nest and to give passers-by the information they need to give sensitive areas a wide berth.

Ringed plover chick

A fluffy ringed plover chick spotted by our rangers on Hayling Island