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Birdwatching 101: Plovers in the Air (and Mudflats)

by Djop Tabaranza

Right about this time of the year, the migratory birds that we have enjoyed over the past few months are beginning their northward return flight to their breeding grounds.  This past migration season, we have been awed by sightings of rare spoonbills, curlews, and huge flocks of gulls and terns but we often overlook the smaller members of the shorebird group – the plovers.  Here are a few plover species that you might be missing out on your checklists with photos and descriptions of the field marks to look out for when identifying them in the field.

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)

  • 17.5cm (7”)
  • has incomplete breast band
  • look for thin white collar

Lesser Sand-Plover (Charadrius mongolus)

  • 19cm (7.5”)
  • has broad incomplete breast band
  • no white collar

Little Ringed-Plover (Charadrius dubius)

  • 16.6cm (6.5”)
  • has distinctive yellow eye-ring against black face mask in breeding plumage.
  • has complete black breast band
  • has thin white collar

Asian or Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)

  • at 23cm (9”) is one of the larger species of plovers
  • distinguished by gold and black spots on its upper parts
  • pale greyish brown underparts in non-breeding plumage become black during breeding

Identifying these smaller waterbirds especially when they are in large mixed flocks can be daunting even for experienced birders. I hope this article encourages you to look closer and try to identify the smaller waterbirds scurrying around mudflats, sandy shores and rice fields. Happy birding!

1 Comment

  1. Tristan

    This is really helpful! It’s in the Kennedy Guide for sure, but this presentation really makes it easier to understand. More please! 🙂

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