Breeding birds: 1,200 – 1.300 pairs
In breeding plumage, male little ringed plovers have brown upperparts and white upperparts with a black collar on the breast. The crown and nape are brown, and the chin and throat are white. There is a black bar on the front of the face separated from the crown by a narrow white band, and a black mask which extends to the ear coverts. The bill is black, the eyes are dark brown with a conspicuous yellow eye-ring, and the legs and feet are pink.
Female little ringed plovers are washed brown on the breast band and the eye-ring is narrower.
Out of breeding plumage, in both sexes, the pattern on the face and breast band are browner, and there is a buff tinge on the forehead and supercilium.
Juveniles have paler upper parts with buff edges to the feathers giving a scaled effect. The breast pattern is broken into two patches, and the head pattern is duller. The eye-ring is dull er, and the legs and feet are yellow.
Little ringed plovers breed from April to September and produce 1 or 2 broods are season. They are monogamous for the first brood and may stay together for several years. They nest in loose groups with well-spaced nests, or as solitary pairs, and sometimes with other more aggressive shorebirds that keep predators away. The nest is a shallow scrape in the ground lined with plant matter and stones, situated near water on gravelly riverbanks, lake shores, or small islands.
Female little ringed plovers lay 3-4 pale yellow eggs with small dark spots which are incubated by both parents for 22-28 days. They may sometimes be joined by one or two other birds who help with nesting duties, and will perform a ‘broken-wing display’ to distract predators.
Chicks are precocial and covered in white down mottled with cinnamon, grey and black. They leave the nest soon after hatching, running about on long legs. They fledge at 24-29 days and are independent after another 8-25 days. Females may produce another brood before the first brood has fledged.
Little ringed plovers eat mainly insects including beetles, flies, ants, dragonflies, mayflies, and crickets. They will also eat spiders, molluscs, and small crustaceans.
Little ringed plovers can be seen in the UK between March and September. They can be spotted in England and Wales and occasionally Scotland in gravel pits, reservoirs, sewage works, and on shingle riverbanks.
The little ringed plover was a rare visitor to Britain before the 1930s but its fondness for breeding in gravel pits and near man-made reservoirs has led to a big increase in its population. It colonises gravel pits quicky, sometimes while they are still being excavated.