Little Ringed Plover

Charadrius dubius (Scopoli, 1786) LP LIRPL 4690
Family: Charadriiformes > Charadriidae

Little Ringed Plover, Liz Cutting

This attractive small wading bird is a relatively new addition to the British breeding avifauna, first recorded nesting here in 1938.

Little Ringed Plovers are summer visitors to Britain, sometimes arriving as early as mid-March. Originally associated with gravel workings in central England, they have now colonised seasonally wet areas across the post-industrial landscapes of the north-west. In Wales and Scotland, new colonists use river gravels for nesting.

Easily confused with its commoner coastal cousin, the Ringed Plover, this species prefers fresh water. It is a daintier bird, has more subtle colours and lacks a white wing-bar when seen in flight. A good close view reveals the diagnostic yellow eye-ring.


Little Ringed Plover identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Little Ringed Plover.

related video

Identifying Ringed Plovers

Ringed Plover. Photograph by Edmund Fellowes

A handsome little wader, with dapper plumage, runs along in front of you, pausing to daintily pick up morsels of food as it goes. Is this a Ringed Plover, or its less common summer-visiting cousin the Little Ringed Plover? This video workshop will guide you towards the most important differences between these two similar species to enable you to confidently tell them apart.


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


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.

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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.



The first recorded breeding in the UK occurred in Hertfordshire in 1938 (Conway et al. 2019) and a count of at least 467 pairs was made in 1973 (Parrinder & Parrinder 1975). The last national survey was carried out in 2007 and produced a population estimate of 1,239 (1,175–1,311) pairs, with both the population and the range increasing considerably since 1984 (Conway et al. 2019). Although based on incomplete information, more recent RBBP data suggest that numbers have remained stable in the 15 years to 2019 (Eaton et al. 2021).


The breeding range of the Little Ringed Plover is centred on northern central and southeast England but the species also breeds sparsely in Wales and the lowlands of central and eastern Scotland. It is a rare new colonist in Ireland.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Little Ringed Plovers only bred for the first time in Britain in 1938


Little Ringed Plovers are summer visitors, arriving from March onwards.

Weekly occurence of Little Ringed 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.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Little Ringed 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 Little Ringed 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: Trìlleachan-tràghad-beag
Welsh: Cwtiad Torchog Bach
Catalan: corriol anellat petit
Czech: kulík rícní
Danish: Lille Præstekrave
Dutch: Kleine Plevier
Estonian: väiketüll
Finnish: pikkutylli
French: Pluvier petit-gravelot
German: Flussregenpfeifer
Hungarian: kis lile
Icelandic: Vatnalóa
Irish: Feadóigín Chladaigh
Italian: Corriere piccolo
Latvian: upes tartinš, klienis
Lithuanian: upinis kirlikas
Norwegian: Dverglo
Polish: sieweczka rzeczna
Portuguese: borrelho-pequeno-de-coleira
Slovak: kulík riecny
Slovenian: mali deževnik
Spanish: Chorlitejo chico
Swedish: mindre strandpipare


Interpretation and scientific publications about Little Ringed Plover from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

This species has been increasing north and west Europe since the 1960s, with climate change and habitat availability suggested as possible drivers of change (Snow & Perrins 1998). Newly created gravel pits continue to be an important habitat for this species (Conway et al. 2019).


Peer-reviewed papers
Ringed Plover, photograph by Jill Pakenham

Breeding populations of Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius and Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula in the United Kingdom in 2007

A tale of two plovers

2019 | Conway G.J., Austin G.E., Handschuh M., Drewitt A.L. & Burton N.H.K.Bird Study

BTO research sheds light on the differing fortunes of two small UK-breeding waders.

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