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Golden Plover

Large wintering flocks were once common In the fields of Dorset but are far less so now

Photograph by: 
Peter Coe

The golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria) is not like many other waders; you never see it wading! Rather than frequent mudflats the golden plover prefers soft, damp grassy areas or fallow fields to feed in whilst spending the winter here in the south. It is not a great traveller; in Britain it breeds on high moorland in northern and western areas and moves to lower areas in south eastern England for the winter when they form large flocks that feed together. We have a couple of flocks each winter here in Dorset but it is not a common bird. Being dependent on soft ground for food, however, if the weather turns really cold and the ground freezes or is covered with snow they are forced to move on and we see large flocks on the move along the south coast of Dorset.

There are no reports of golden plover in Dorset between week 21 at the end of May and week 39 at the end of September; indeed, there are very few reports after week 12 at the end of March. During the winter months there is usually at least one report every week but the weekly reports chart shows a surge in week 9 and this was down to severe weather in March 2018 when the south east was subjected to the 'beast from the east' and thousands of birds were seen passing through Dorset going west, they seemed to be just about every where.

Although forty sites have reported golden plover this is misleading as I said above. In a 'normal' winter the main flock seems to return each year to Maiden Castle. Other than this regular flock parties of golden plover can be sometimes found on ploughed fields in remote areas of western Dorset,

The Maiden Castle flock is certainly your best chance of adding golden plover to your Dorset list.



Common Name Golden Plover
Scientific Name Pluvialis apricaria
Species Group Birds Plovers
Status Restricted
Interest Level
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
Look for

Flocks of waders on ploughed fields, rough pasture and damp meadows

Identification Notes
  • Loss of suitable habitat now means flocks of golden plover are now seen less often than they once were
  • A wintering species of wader but rarely seen wading, they prefer rough pasture and damp meadows
  • Nearly always seen in largish flocks 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

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

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Plovers