Charadrius morinellus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Charadriiformes > Charadriidae
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’.
Dotterel identification is sometimes difficult.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Dotterel, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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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
|No. occupied in breeding season
|% occupied in breeding season
|No. occupied in winter
|% occupied in winter
European Distribution Map
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.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
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
|Maximum Age from Ringing
|10 years 10 months 1 days (set in 1998)
|2-letter: DO | 5-letter code: DOTTE | Euring: 4820
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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).
Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com
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