Grey Plover

Pluvialis squatarola (Linnaeus, 1758) GV GREPL 4860
Family: Charadriiformes > Charadriidae

Grey Plover, Paul Hillion

Primarily a winter visitor to our coastal estuaries, its British name reflects its drab plumage at this time of year.

In summer, though, the Grey plover is more strikingly coloured and elsewhere it is known as the Black-bellied or Silver Plover. This was probably the last regularly occurring British species to have its breeding areas identified – not surprising given they are in the northernmost reaches of Siberia.

As with many Arctic-breeding waders, while some birds come to Britain for the winter, others continue their journey to spend the winter in western Africa. Unlike most birds, Grey Plovers often replace their primary feathers in two stages, moulting some before migrating and the remainder when they’ve completed their journey.


Grey Plover identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Grey Plover.

related video

Identifying Grey Plover and Golden Plover

Can you tell the silver from the gold? Found around our coasts, wetlands and uplands Golden Plover is a beautiful medium-sized wader. Its cousin, Grey Plover, can be found around our coasts in most months of the year, causing a potential ID challenge. This ID workshop will help you to confidently separate the two species.


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

Flight call

Alarm call


Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

Browse training courses

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.




Grey Plovers are winter visitors and passage migrants to the UK and are widely distributed around the coasts, with a particular preference for areas with intertidal mud and sandflats. The breeding season map shows a scattering of spring and early autumn passage migrants and summering second calendar-year birds.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


There has been little change in winter range since the 1980s.


Grey Plovers are mostly winter visitors but a few birds summer on larger estuaries, and return migration can begin in late July.

Weekly occurence of Grey Plover 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 Grey Plover 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 Grey Plover, 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


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


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

Gaelic: Feadag-ghlas
Welsh: Cwtiad Llwyd
Catalan: pigre gris
Czech: kulík bledý
Danish: Strandhjejle
Dutch: Zilverplevier
Estonian: plüü
Finnish: tundrakurmitsa
French: Pluvier argenté
German: Kiebitzregenpfeifer
Hungarian: ezüstlile
Icelandic: Grálóa
Irish: Feadóg Ghlas
Italian: Pivieressa
Latvian: juras kivite
Lithuanian: jurinis sejikas
Norwegian: Tundralo
Polish: siewnica
Portuguese: batuiruçu-de-axila-preta / tarambola-cinzenta
Slovak: kulík bledý
Slovenian: crna prosenka
Spanish: Chorlito gris
Swedish: kustpipare
Folkname: Sea / Silver Plover


Interpretation and scientific publications about Grey Plover from BTO scientists.


Peer-reviewed papers
Avocet - Amy Lewis

Consequences of population change for local abundance and site occupancy of wintering waterbirds

Wavering Waterbirds

2017 | Méndez, V., Gill, J.A., Alves, J.A., Burton, N.H.K. & Davies, R.G.Diversity and Distributions

Protected sites are assigned based on population statistics for vulnerable and endangered species. This new study using WeBS data shows that changes in population size can affect local abundance, and thus influence whether or not key targets are met for site protection.

Links to more information from

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