Charadrius morinellus (Linnaeus, 1758) DO DOTTE 4820
Family: Charadriiformes > Charadriidae

Dotterel, Edmund Fellowes

A pretty wading bird of the highest Scottish mountains, the Dotterel is known for being extremely tame and confiding.

Dotterels are related to plovers, and migrate here in early summer from southern Europe and North Africa to breed amongst the rocky and mossy wastes of Britain’s highest mountains. Recent sample surveys estimate that the population has halved in the last 30 years, and their preference for montane habitats makes them sensitive to climate change.

In spring, usually early May, small groups of migrating Dotterel can turn up in bare cereal fields in eastern England. These are known as ‘trips’, where the birds stop to feed before heading on up to the mountains. Local heritage sometimes records this occurrence with pub and road names featuring ‘The Dotterel’.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Dotterel

  • Breeding
  • Winter


Dotterel identification is sometimes difficult.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Dotterel, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Flight call



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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



As a montane species, the Dotterel is difficult to monitor and numbers reported to the RBBP are often only a small fraction of the population. The vast majority of the breeding population is found in the Scottish Highlands, but breeding was confirmed in Cumbria in 2019 and probable breeding occurred in Meirionydd in the same year (Eaton et al. 2021). The Atlas data show a 78% range expansion in terms of the number of 10-km squares occupied since 1968–72 but this is believed to be due to improved observer coverage rather than a genuine change (Balmer et al. 2013). A decline in population was noted between the 1987–88 and 1999 surveys (Whitfield 1999) and a further decline was noted by the time of the 2011 survey, with large declines observed within the core population in the east Highlands (Hayhow et al. 2015).


Dotterels breed mainly in the Grampian Mountains, with smaller numbers in the northwest Highlands, with occasional outlying pairs in southwest Scotland and Cumbria.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


The apparent 78% range expansion since the 1968–72 Breeding Atlas, most evident in northwest Scotland, is probably largely due to improved coverage.


Dotterels are summer visitors, most often reported during spring passage and less so when in their montane breeding habitat; rare in winter.

Weekly occurence of Dotterel from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Dotterel ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Dotterel, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Amadan-mòintich
Welsh: Hutan y Mynydd
Catalan: corriol pit-roig
Czech: kulík hnedý
Danish: Pomeransfugl
Dutch: Morinelplevier
Estonian: roosterind-tüll e. mornel
Finnish: keräkurmitsa
French: Pluvier guignard
German: Mornellregenpfeifer
Hungarian: havasi lile
Icelandic: Fjalllóa
Irish: Amadán Móinteach
Italian: Piviere tortolino
Latvian: morinela tartinš
Lithuanian: eurazinis mornelis
Norwegian: Boltit
Polish: mornel
Portuguese: borrelho-ruivo
Slovak: kulík vrchovský
Slovenian: dular
Spanish: Chorlito carambolo
Swedish: fjällpipare
Folkname: Stone Runner


Interpretation and scientific publications about Dotterel from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

Redistribution of birds to Fennoscandia and problems on the wintering grounds have been suggested as possible causes of the decline in Scotland (Whitfield 2002). It should be noted that Dotterel is an itinerant breeder: individual birds are not necessarily faithful to one breeding site and may move to or from Scandinavia both within and between summers, hence differences between surveys may simply represent differing conditions during the survey years (Whitfield 2002). However, the strength of the decline to 2011 may be evidence that conditions on the Scottish breeding grounds have worsened, with possible drivers including land use changes, nitrogen deposition and the effects of climate change (Hayhow et al. 2015). There are concerns that montane species such as Dotterel will be among the most vulnerable in the UK to the effects of climate change (REF).

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