You are here

Grey Plover

Click the pic!

To aid users of mobile devices as well as those with a mouse or laptop finger pad this site uses a simple image-based menu system. Virtually every picture you see (images and photos) are links to more information arranged in a sort of top-down structure. See an image, click or tap on it to open a new page.

Mainly a winter visit to the shores of Poole and Christchurch harbours


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Grey Plover: the forgotten one?

Post date: Wednesday, 19 February, 2014 - 00:00

To my mind the grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola) is something of a forgotten bird. Ask a number of Dorset birders to name ten waders and I suspect very few would include grey plover in their list, I am not sure why. They are rather plain, drab birds in winter I suppose, no remarkable plumage and they are not that big and so not particularly impressive.

Grey plovers are not that common but they hardly set the pulse racing when you see one. A couple of hundred over winter in Poole Harbour and lesser numbers elsewhere in the county. During migration times the number go up a bit with passage migrants dropping in for lunch. As with many of our wintering waders here in Dorset, the grey plover nests in the Arctic and migrates south for the winter, some go as far south as Africa.

They also seem to be solitary birds, usually seen on the waters edge at low tide feeding alone rather than in the company of their fellows. Do they even look a bit sad or is it just me being sentimental?  


Grey Plover in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Post date: Friday, 15 February, 2019 - 18:40

In common with several of the wader species we get on the shores of Dorset the grey plover is an Arctic breeder coming south to spend the winter here. That said grey plover can be seen all year round with a small number of non-breeding birds choosing to stay here throughout the summer. Less like other waders they tend to be more solitary, even a little territorial, and are rarely seen in any numbers together although they are not uncommon in favoured sandy or muddy sites along the Dorset coast. 

The presence all year round is reflected in the weekly reports chart with records for virtually every week of the year but bizarrely, at the time of writing in February 2019, there have been no records for weeks 7 and 8 during the time the Nature of Dorset database has been operating. This may just be coincidental or it may show that wintering birds here decide to move further south in the depth of winter to warmer climes. There is a peak of reports in the spring from week 17 to 19 in May which would indicate passage of migrant birds from Europe and Africa heading back north and stopping off here for rest and food. 

The distribution map shows that many of the Poole Harbour sites have grey plover as, too, does Christchurch Harbour and various points along the Fleet. This reflects their habitat preference feeding on mudflats at low tide and moving to nearby higher but wet ground when forced off during high tides.

To make grey plover a Dorset tick I would suggest an autumn visit to Brownsea where they can be seen close up from the hides overlooking the lagoon.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Grey Plover
Scientific Name Pluvialis squatarola
Status Occasional
Interest Level
Species Family Plovers
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Mudflats
Look for A plump wader, on its own, displaying a dark eye stripe
Additional Identification Notes
  • Winter in Dorset every year and can also be seen in small numbers during the summer
  • Can be seen on mudflats feeding at low tide but often on their own rather than social groups
  • A plump bird with a short neck and horizontal stance 
Similar Species