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Ringed Plover { Birds of Europe}

Updated on April 13, 2015

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

Taken in Iceland
Taken in Iceland | Source


The Ringed Plover belongs to the Order of birds known as the Charadriiformes and the family Charadriidae within that order.The species name of Charadrius derives from the Greek kharadra meaning a ravine and the specific name of hiaticula derives from Latin hiatus indicating a cleft +colere to inhabit.

In the UK they are placed on the Amber list of conservation concern {declines of between 25-50% over the last forty years or so} due to declines and the important non-breeding populations. The estimated population in the UK is 5,300 pairs during the summer months .The wintering population is estimated at around 30,000 individuals. They are also Amber listed in Ireland due to internationally important numbers winter in Ireland.

In Europe they are regarded as being secure with an estimated population of between 110-180,000 pairs in summer. The population varies from country to country and there follows some selected examples. The Danish population is estimated at between 1,900-2,500 Breeding pairs {BP} Finland 8,000-11,000 BP. France 100-130 BP. Germany 1.000-1,700 BP. Iceland 30,000-50,000 BP. Norway 10,000-15,000 BP. Russia {the whole of} 13,000-40,000 BP,Sweden 10,000-20,000 BP. and Ukraine about 100 BP.

They breed in northern Eurasia and winter south to South Africa southern Asia and Australia.They inhabit sandy areas with low vegetation and during migration on estuaries.

The Croatian name for the bird Zujavac blataric {Zalar Zujavoc}, The Gaelic name for the bird is Trlleachan -tr-ghad. The Irish name is Feadog chlandaigh, and the Welsh name is Cwtiad toochog.

Ringed Plover {Taken in July}


What are plovers.?

Plovers belong to the sub-family Charadriinae of the large family Charadriidae,and there are thought to be 66 species in the family which are referred to as Plovers or Dotterals. They are closely related to the Lapwing in the sub-family of Vanellinae.

They are encountered all over the world with the exception of the Polar regions and the Sahara desert. They are characterized by their relatively short bills and hunt by sight as opposed to 'feel',like the larger longer billed waders such as curlews **do.

A group of Plovers is referred to by ornithologists as a 'stand' ,'wing',or 'congregation'. Whilst a group of Dotterals is referred to as a 'trip'.

The genus Charadrius includes the New Zealand Plover,Wilson's Plover, Killdeer **, Ringed Plover,Eurasian Dotteral, the Two banded plover and the Oriental Plover.

Here we review the Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula and as always we commence with a description of the species under review.

** These species have already been reviewed in this series.

Piping Plover. Charadrius melodus

Taken at Sauble Beach Ontario,Canada.
Taken at Sauble Beach Ontario,Canada. | Source

Ringed Plover

Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland. Richard Crossley.
Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland. Richard Crossley. | Source

Description of the Ringed Plover

At A Glance---The Ringed Plover is about the size of a Thrush and may easily be recognized by its broad white collar,black breast and cheeks, brown upper parts and snow white under parts.

In more detail--- The adult male the bill is orange yellow at the base becoming black towards the tip. The iris an umber colour. The front of the forehead,a patch behind the eyes,chin,throat and neck,and under parts are generally white. The lores {the space between the bill and eyes},sides of the face,ear coverts,upper forehead are black. A black band around the chest,broad in front ,narrow on the shoulders. The crown is black.

The wing coverts and tertiary quills are brown,the larger wing coverts tipped with white. The primary feathers with white patches,irregular in shape and size,at the base of the inner webs. The secondary feathers are more white still,occupying in some cases most of the feathers. The tail is hair brown,almost black at the feather ends,all but the middle pair tipped with white,which increases in area outwards, the outer pair being entirely white. The legs and feet are orange the claws are black.

The female has a brown tinge in the black parts of the head,and her colours are duller in general. In winter both sexes loose a good deal of the black on the head and chest.

Taken at Gairloch ,Scotland
Taken at Gairloch ,Scotland | Source

General and historical information

The Ringed Plover was formerly placed in the genus Aegialitis and was sometimes referred to as the Ringed Dotteral. They also acquired names such as 'stone-hatch' and 'sand lark'. Many of the English vernacular names, not only of this species but many others also, cause confusion to anyone just beginning to study the wonderful world of the feathered fraternity. There are two species of Ringed Plover that occur in the UK, the species under review and the smaller aptly named Little Ringed Plover Charadius dubius.

The Ringed Plover is essentially a shore bird,except partially during the breeding season. However, even the individuals ,that nest in land, return to the sea as soon as the young are fit enough to travel. This species frequents sandy and muddy,rather than rocky shores mingling with other species at feeding time.Their food consists of small crustaceans,insects and worms.

Butler,1861,relates " It is a very pretty and engaging species,not naturally afraid of man,and harmed by none but the kind of prowling gunner { of which there are far too many in England} who want to kill, and kill as much as possible,caring little what it is they take the life of to no purpose"

The Ringed Plover,very rarely mixes with other birds on the wing,Dunlins,Curlews,Sandpipers and Sanderlings and such like do,but the Ringed Plover fly alone or with their own species. Like most shore birds,when in flocks they perform the most rapid and intricate evolutions on the wing. On the ground too, they are remarkably active running with such speed that their legs has a blurred outline.

The ordinary note of the Ringed Plover is a pretty two syllable whistle, but the male in the breeding season uses another pleasing note. This little creature is one of my favourite shore birds. It is very interesting to observe this nimble species running along the sands at the water's edge,avoiding waves that wash higher up than others,deviating as little as possible from its course. They fly with a powerful speed but not generally far unless alarmed,returning to the place they have left. The flight is performed by using moderate flapping of the wings.

taken in Iceland
taken in Iceland | Source

Parent sitting

Jyllond Denmark
Jyllond Denmark | Source

Eggs of the Ringed Plover

Taken in Akureyri Iceland.
Taken in Akureyri Iceland. | Source

Breeding ,nest and eggs

They begin to pair in early May although some individuals commence earlier and some later in the summer. The nest is usually located by the sea,on shingle and sand just above the high water mark,but also occasionally inland, on pebble shores of mountain lakes or on barren sandy heaths.The nest is a mere hollow in the ground,less than three inches across and less than an inch deep.There is seldom any lining but now and again a few strands of leaves are found in the nest ,more frequently fragments of shells. More commonly still ,small pebbles are included which may have given rise to one of its vernacular names mentioned above of 'Stone-hatch'.

The female will deposit four eggs of a cream to a clay colour,they are spotted and splashed with slate grey and black. The eggs are incubated by both parents for a period of about twenty three to twenty five days.

The parent birds will use any trick in the book to draw attention of intruders away from the nest,and in common with many ground nesting birds they will feign injury by flapping just one wing as they run along open ground,while at the same time uttering a twittering note of alarm and anxiety. This will lure the would be predator towards them as the predator senses an easy meal. If the intruder gets to close the bird will then take to the wing and out of danger.

The eggs and chicks are well camouflaged and which they rely upon to keep them safe being entirely the same colour as the ground they sit upon.

The eggs can be seen under the parent bird

Taken in Denmark
Taken in Denmark | Source

Little ringed plover +chick. Courtesy of avonbirding. Standard You Tube License

Young birds

The young have the bill almost black the under mandible a pale orange yellow colour. From the base of the eye there is a dusky streak. The forehead has no black band over the white one which is a dull white.The crown is greyish brown without the black band,and below the back of the head is a shade of dull black. The collar on the upper part of the breast is a pale dusky brown.

The chin,throat and breast,white with a tinge of yellow,the gorget dull brown. The greater and lesser wing coverts are greyish brown, the feathers edged with and tipped with pale yellowish or whitish brown. The secondary and tertiary feathers greyish brown and each feather edged with yellowish brown.

The tail has the two middle feathers tipped with yellowish brown. The kegs and toes a pale dull yellow.

Ringed Plover-Juvenile

Taken at Farmoor Reserve Oxfordshire {England}
Taken at Farmoor Reserve Oxfordshire {England} | Source


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    Post Comment

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Deb,

      I too love these little birds, and shore birds in general. Thank you for your visit. Always appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I adore the shore birds, as the young ones look like tiny versions of their parents.


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