Grey plover call: Krzysztof Deoniziak, Xeno-Canto
Like other birds in the plover family, grey plovers have a short bill and large, round eyes. But the best way to identify them is by their behaviour – they catch small molluscs, worms, fish and insects using the ‘run stop peck’ feeding method, where birds wander around and then suddenly peck at the ground.
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. In flight, they are recognisable by their distinctive black ‘armpits’.
Grey plovers travel thousands of miles to the Solent every winter from Artic Siberia, an extraordinary journey for such a small bird.
Grey plovers are amber listed in the UK. They are a qualifying feature for the Chichester and Langstone Harbours Special Protection Area – that means, when the site was designated, a nationally significant number used these coastlines in the winter.
Did you know?
When in their summer breeding grounds grey plovers have a very different look – with a silver and black spotted back, and a black face, neck and belly. Their name in North America matches this warm weather plumage as they are known in as black-bellied plovers.⠀You may be lucky enough to see this in March before they set off on their spring migration.