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Golden plover

Pluvialis apricaria

A medium sized wading bird, just slightly smaller than its relative, the grey plover.

All about golden plover

In summer many breed in the upland moorlands of the UK before moving to lowland fields, farmlands and coastal estuaries in the winter.

Much larger numbers can be seen in winter as they are joined by migratory plover which come from breeding grounds in northern Europe, Iceland, and Scandinavia.

In summer they have beautiful black and gold speckled plumage but in winter the black disappears and they develop a paler, buff coloured plumage on their throats, chest and belly. In flight their golden feathers shimmer in the sunlight. Their scientific name comes from the Latin for ‘relating to rain’ from pluvia, “rain”, since it was believed that plovers flocked when rain was on its way. The species name apricaria, appropriately means “to bask in the sun”.

They form large flocks and will often stand upright and run in short bursts. They feed on worms, beetles and insects. According to scientists, plovers have larger eyes in relation to their heads compared with other wading birds, and this is thought to aid low light vision, making them specially adapted for feeding in low light conditions.

Golden plover and lapwing are often found together: in flight they can be distinguished by their wings which are sharp and pointed, compared to the rounded wings and floppy flight of the lapwings.

Local spotlight

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.

Conservation status

They are green listed in the UK.

Did you know?

The golden plover is traditionally thought to herald the arrival of spring in Iceland.