Coastal habitats are home to amazing bird species and one of these is our mascot bird, the Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)! The Ringed Plover was chosen as the mascot for the Plover Rovers as it symbolises two key aspects of our initiative. Firstly, as a coastal bird it symbolises life on the land/sea interface where its fate is linked to both land and sea. Also, the Ringed Plover is struggling due to people accessing the coast in a non-mindful way and our initiative wants to promote understanding of the ocean and of our coastal habitats, helping people to engage with the amazing nature on our doorstep in a mindful way.
The Ringer Plover is a small wader and its head has a black mask, black and white front, pale brown crown, and a stubby orange bill with a black tip. Its orange legs and feet make it easy to spot while out visiting coastal areas. When in flight, look out for a defined, white wing bar.
The Ringed Plover is a resident breeder and winter or passage visitor in the UK and Ireland. You can see these birds all year round and they breed on the coastline of the entire UK, there have even been birds seen breeding at inland gravel pits in central Britain. They are usually seen running up and down the beach in a characteristic stop-start fashion. These birds forage for food on beaches, tidal flats and fields, usually using sight alone to find crustaceans, molluscs, marine worms and various insects such as ants, beetles and flies.
Unfortunately, in December 2015 the Ringed Plover was classified in the UK as “Red” under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4. “Red” is the highest conservation priority and classification depends on the following criteria: IUCN (global conservation status), historical decline (species that declined severely between 1800 and 1995 and have not recovered), breeding population decline (>50% decline over 25 years), non-breeding population decline (>50% over 25 years) and breeding range decline (>50% decline as measured by number of 10 km squares occupied by breeding birds, over 25 years). We have seen a decline in both overwintering and breeding populations of Ringed Plovers of 39% in the last 10 years! You can see this bird featured in the Red Sixty Seven book which features the 67 UK Red-listed birds. You can also check out the population trends in detail here.
Ringed Plovers lay their eggs between April and July. They nest in groups or solitary. The nest they build is a shallow scrape in the ground, lined with pebbles and vegetation and both adults defend the nest by calling loudly and swooping at intruders. This species is gregarious and can be found in small flocks of up to 50, but occasionally large groups of between 1,200 and 1,500 have been recorded.
Ringed Plovers are affected by human disturbance and have been known to avoid breeding in areas that are subject to human disturbance. This species is also affected by accidental trampling of nests by people walking on the beach. We can all do our bit and just be more aware of our surroundings when visiting these beautiful habitats, especially in the breeding season as they lay their eggs on open ground.
❖ Ringed Plovers will pretend to have a broken wing in order to lure potential predators away from its nest and protect its young.
❖ To entice prey hidden underground to emerge, the Ringed Plover taps its feet on the ground to imitate rainfall.