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Ringed plover

Charadrius hiaticula

Some describe ringed plovers as dumpy or rotund, but we think this little plover rates pretty high on the cuteness scale.

ID tips

As an adult, they wear a black scarf around their neck which is very useful for identifying them from other small waders. They have an orange bill with a black tip, orange legs with light brown feathers on top making them well camouflaged from aerial predators.⠀

You can tell them apart from their little ringed cousins (Charadrius dubius) since, although they have a similar black and white head pattern, ringed plovers don’t have a yellow eye-ring, as little ringed plovers do. Little ringed plovers also have an entirely black bill, rather than the orange bill with a black tip favoured by the ringed plover.

Summer breeding and winter migration

Ringed plovers are resident along our Solent coastlines all year round with some pairs attempting to breed along our shingle shores: watch out for signs and fencing during breeding season to let you know a ringed plover is nesting nearby.

Larger numbers are seen over the colder months: in the UK overall, there are about four times as many of the species in the winter, compared with the summer.

You’ll see passage migrants in the autumn and spring as they travel through this country on their way to and from more northern breeding grounds on UK coastlines, Scandinavia, Netherlands and Belgium. Birds that breed in Norway have been tracked as migrating all the way to West Africa for the winter.

Ringed plover behaviours

You will often see ringed plovers scampering around on sandy or shingle beaches searching for food like flies, spiders, worms, crustaceans and molluscs.

Their excellent camouflage and small scale (about 20cm long) make them very difficult for us to spot, so take extra care to look out for these birds. Camouflage is vital for ringed plovers since they lay their eggs among the pebbles and shingle on an open beach: watch out for signs and fencing during nesting season to let you know to take extra care as a ringed plover is nearby.

When the parents sense a threat to their nest or chicks, like some other waders, they pretend to have a broken wing to lure potential predators away. ⠀

Conservation status

Ringed plover are red listed in the UK and are a qualifying feature for the Solent and Southampton Water and Chichester and Langstone Harbours Special Protection Areas. That means, when these sites were designated, a nationally significant number of ringed plover used these coastlines.

Find out more about the Special Protection Areas on the Solent.

Did you know?

Like some other waders, they use a special trick when they feed: trembling their feet to make the wet sand more fluid, helping prey float to the surface.⠀

Learn about the Solent’s other wading birds.