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Golden plovers roosting on the saltmarsh

Wading birds

Often referred to as waders, huge numbers of these birds arrive on our Solent coastline in the autumn and spend the winter with us before migrating back up to the Arctic in the spring. They are usually seen on the water’s edge, wading (as their name suggests) into the shallow waters with their long legs and searching with their beaks for animals who live in the mud and sand below.

Avocet walking through the water

Avocet

Easily recognised by their upturned bills which they use to feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and worms by sweeping them side-to-side through the water.

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Bar-tailed godwit

You will see bar-tailed godwits in large, often noisy, flocks. They feed by making fast probing movements in the mud: sometimes it looks like they don’t stop walking while they feed.

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Black-tailed godwit

Black-tailed godwit

Thousands of these wading birds spend the winter on the Solent coast, making it an area of both international and national importance for this red listed species.

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Curlew in flight at Bembridge

Curlew

Europe’s largest wading bird with an extraordinary curved bill and a haunting ‘cur-lee’ call. They return to our shores towards the end of the summer from Scandinavia and Russia, while those that spent the summer in the New Forest, will head further south to France and Spain.

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Dunlin

Dunlin

A small wading bird which comes to the Solent to spend the winter every year from Scandinavia and Russia. Other dunlin just pass through during their spring and autumn migrations, using the Solent coast as a pit-stop to rest and refuel.

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Golden plover on a rock by the sea

Golden plover

Golden plover can be found all around the Solent during the winter, especially around the Newtown and Yar estuaries on the Isle of Wight, Chichester and Langstone Harbours, Southampton Water and the northwest Solent.

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Greenshank

Greenshank

Greenshank are a less common relative of the redshank but with grey-green legs instead of red. They appear taller than their more common cousin with long slender legs and they have a dark grey back and a slightly upturned bill.

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Grey plover

Grey plovers have dark grey legs, and during the winter, their plumage is a uniform mid-grey colour, but if you get a close-up look through binoculars or a telescope, you may notice the pretty flecks of very pale white-grey sprinkled throughout their back and wings.

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Knot walking in the water

Knot

In winter my coat is grey and white which is a huge change from my brick red summer coat. My head is quite small compared to my body size.

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Lapwing

Lapwing

With their emerald and purple iridescent feathers and stylish crest, lapwing stand out among their fellow waders. Despite its red list status, it’s still – just – the most numerous breeding wader in the UK, with estimates at almost 100k pairs, just ahead of the oystercatcher. 

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Oystercatcher on the sand

Oystercatcher

With their striking black and white plumage, reddish-pink legs and their remarkable carrot-like bills, oystercatcher are hard to miss, so are a great species to look out for if you’re a beginner birdwatcher.

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redshank

Redshank

Redshank are known as the ‘warden of the marshes’ because they’re often the first and one of the loudest birds to warn other species when there is a predator about.

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Ringed plover

Ringed plover

Some describe ringed plovers as dumpy or rotund, but we think this little plover rates pretty high on the cuteness scale. As an adult, they wear a black scarf around their neck which is very useful for identifying them from other small waders.

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Sanderling

Despite their diminutive size, sanderlings fly thousands of miles to spend the winter on the Solent coast, all the way from the Siberian Arctic and Greenland.

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Turnstone

Turnstone

At high tide you will see turnstone roosting on harbour walls, jetties and boats. They are resting up and waiting for the tide to go back out so they can carry on looking for food.

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