Grey Plover/Pluvialis squatarola

Grey Plover/Pluvialis squatarola - Photographer: Frank Schulkes
Grey Plover/Pluvialis squatarola - Photographer: Frank Schulkes
Grey Plover/Pluvialis squatarola - Photographer: Евгени Стефанов
Grey Plover/Pluvialis squatarola - Photographer: Даниел Митев

L 26-29 cm, WS 56-63 cm. Breeds in high Arctic on tundra, where adults spend Jun-Jul, then migrates to W Europe, where some stop to moult, and even stay through winter (mostly males), whereas a majority pass through to winter W Africa (mostly females in tropical Africa); juveniles migrate c. 1½ months later (late Aug-Sep) than adults in autumn. On autumn migration seen on coastline, often singles or a few birds only, loosely spread out along shore or on shingle bank, behaviour poised (even sluggish). In winter frequents tidal flats and adjacent freshwater pools, can be seen in large gatherings at high tide. In spring crosses N Europe in one or two long legs in May, usually passing unnoticed at great height in fair weather, but in cold, adverse conditions large, dense flocks can sometimes be seen resting. Food mainly marine worms, molluscs and crustaceans.
IDENTIFICATION: Distinctively big plover with bulky body, large head and heavy bill; posture more hunched and feeding action more ponderous than with smaller plovers. In flight, black axillaries diagnostic, bold white wing-bar and whitish rump characteristic. - Adult summer: male has solid black below, female has white intermixed. - Adult winter: Underparts whitish, and grey upperpart feathers and wing-coverts diffusely fringed or barred whitish. - Juvenile: Greyish-black upperparts and wing-coverts neatly spotted and notched yellowish-buff; underparts pale yellowish-buff with fine grey streaking; black ‘armpits’ distinctive in flight; general coloration often yellowish-brown, recalling juvenile Golden Plover, and since it has a wellmarked pale supercilium and often a hint of a dark ear patch it may even resemble an American Golden Plover (p.134). - 1st-summer: Like adult winter or with very little black below. Many stay through summer in W Europe and W Africa.
VOICE: Vocal. Call is a distinctive, mournful, trisyllabic whistle with middle syllable lower-pitched and sometimes stressed, ‘peee-uu-ee’; at times, often with juveniles, voice is shrill and hoarse. Display-song, often in butterfly-like slow-motion flight, is a different trisyllabic whistle with first and last syllables lower and stressed, ‘plu-ee-uu’; other calls heard on breeding grounds, usually in anxiety, are a straight ‘plüüh’ and a Curlew-like ‘pluu-ee’.

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