Little Ringed Plover

Charadrius dubius

14-15cm

Appearance

A dainty, slender wader that's smaller than the Ringed Plover. It's head is small and round, the bill short and dark, and its legs are yellowish and quite short. In summer, the adults upperparts are sandy-brown and its underparts are white; it has a white collar, a black breast-band, a yellow ring around the eye, and black and white markings on the head. The black markings are less obvious in female birds. When flying, the wings are plain, lacking the wing-bar of the Ringed Plover. Juveniles and the winter adult (which is not found in the region) are brown where the summer adult has black markings, and there's a pale stripe across the eye.

Habitat

In Britain, these birds are mainly in northern, central, and the south-east of England. Favours freshwater man-made sites in the region such as gravel banks of lakes and rivers, mining areas and reservoirs. Can be quite nomadic, regularly departing old locations for new.

Character

When in display, it flies low over its grounds in similar fashion to a butterfly with rigid wings. Seldom seen in flocks except for occasionally in migratory groups in Europe, and can be loud and confrontational at the initial stages of the breeding season, but inconspicuous once it has eggs.

Food

Diet is primarily insects and small creatures available in shallow water such as beetles, flies, larvae of mayflies and dragonflies, freshwater shrimps, worms, small water snails, and also some seeds.

Breeding

The nest is a scrape on barren ground or among short vegetation. Female usually lays 4 eggs which both adults incubate for 24 days; young feed themselves but are brooded while they're little and in rough weather. Young can fly after about 25-27 days, but they're not independent for up to another 25 days; pairs may raise two broods in one breeding season.

Population

A summer visitor to the region; most birds arrive in March and depart on their southern migration between July and September. Numbers are slowly increasing with more than 1200 pairs nesting in the region each year.

Observation Tips

Can be confused with the Ringed Plover; this is a smaller bird, but perhaps the best identifier is the absence of the white wing-bar (featured in the Ringed Plover) in flight. The southern half of Britain has many flooded gravel pits, such as the margins of the Thames corridor, which appeal to these birds and are worth visiting for the chance of a sighting.

Voice

Breeding birds have a 'pee-oo' call, most often used in flight, and also has a 'pip-pip-pip' which is repeated in quick succession.
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