Grey Plover Winter

Pluvialis squatarola Arctic Russia, Alaska E to Melville Peninsula and Baffin Island. Winters on coasts of North and South America, W Europe, Africa, S Asia, Indonesia and Australia.

 

Descriptive notes.
25-30 cm, 175-320 g, wingspan 70-83 cm. Sparkling silver upper parts with contrasting black under parts, black axillaries conspicuous in flight. Larger, chunkier and much greyer than congeners.
Female has browner under parts than male, with pale flecking.
Non breeding adult lacks black of under parts, duller brownish grey above, dirty white below. Juvenile like non-breeding adult, but upper parts darker with pale yellow spots.

Habitat.

Grey Plover Summer

Typically found on dry hilly sites spotted with stony dry tundra, or on tundra with sedges, moss and lichens in both upland locations and river valleys. In non-breeding season, on inter tidal mudflats and beaches.
During migration, also frequents inland lakes and pools and more rarely grassland.
Wintering birds roost in large flocks, of up to several thousand, in salt marshes and on sandbanks and beaches.

Food and Feeding.
On tundra, mainly insects, occasionally some grass seeds and stems.
In winter, takes marine polychaetes worms, molluscs, crustaceans, occasional insects and earthworms. Primarily feeds on inter tidal flats at low tide.
Sometimes feeds at night. Most frequently alone or in small parties of up to 30 birds. In winter quarters, some birds defend feeding territories, to which they return yearly, similar pattern during spring migration.
Breeding.
May-Jun. Monogamous, often for several years. Solitary, with nests not less than 400 metres apart. Nest is shallow scrape. Lined with small stones, moss and lichens. 4 eggs, incubation 26-7 days, by both sexes, sometimes perhaps starting before clutch is completed. Chick variegated sulphur yellow and black above, white below, with white collar and white cheeks bordered below by black stripe. Age of first breeding 2-3 years.

Movements.
Migratory. Departs from breeding grounds Jul-Sep. Southward movements take place into Nov. Return migration stars Apr, and most N wintering birds do not leave until early Jun.
First departures from South Africa in Feb. Returns to tundra late May to early Jun. Part of Russian population flies W, down W Palaearctic coasts to W Africa, other birds migrate along E Mediterranean flyway to E and S Africa, and to S Asia and Australia.

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