Length: 18 – 20 cm
Wingspan: 48 – 58 cm
Weight: 55 – 75 g
Adult male ringed plovers have pale brown upperparts, while the sides of the rump and outer rectrices are white. They have conspicuous white wing bars, the greater coverts have white tips and the rest of the coverts have narrow white fringes. The tail has a brown base and a black subterminal bar.
The underparts are white with a black or brown breast band. The underwing is white, as is the chin and throat.
On the head, the crown is pale brown, the lores, ear coverts, base of the forehead, and frontal bar is black, and the rest of the forehead is white. There is a white supercilium that extends above and behind the eyes.
Ringed plovers have orange bills with a black tip which turn brown out of breeding season, dark brown eyes with a narrow dull orange eye-ring, and the legs and feet are bright orange-yellow.
Female ringed plovers are similar but duller. The breast is tinged with brown as are the ear coverts. Juveniles are paler with buff fringes and a brown, indistinct head pattern. The breast band is brown, with patches on the front.
Ringed plovers breed between April and July, nesting in loose groups or solitary pairs. The nest is a shallow scrape in the ground lined with pebbles and vegetation. Both parents defend the nest vigorously by calling loudly and swooping at intruders.
Ringed plovers lay 3-4 buff eggs with brown and black spots, which are incubated by both parents for 23-25 days. The chicks are covered in grey-brown down with darker upperparts. They can feed themselves and fly at about 24 days after hatching.
Ringed plovers eat crustaceans, molluscs, worms, and insects such as ants, beetles, and flies.
Where to see them
Ringed plovers can be seen in the UK all year round, on beaches and coastal areas. Inland, look for them in flooded gravel pits.
Did you know?
If a ringed plover’s eggs or chicks are threatened the adult will perform the ‘broken-wing’ display in an attempt to drive the predator away from the nest site.