Grey plover

Grey Plover

©Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Grey plover

Scientific name: Pluvialis squatarola
The Grey plover is similar to the Golden plover, but as its name suggests, has a silver- and black-speckled back, rather than a gold one. It is only found at the coast and is mostly a winter migrant.

Species information


Length: 26-29cm
Wingspan: 77cm
Weight: 240g
Average lifespan: 9 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

July to April


The Grey plover is a chunky plover, larger than the similar Golden plover. The Grey plover can be found along the coast, preferring sandy and muddy estuaries. Although a small number of birds stay during summer, this is really a winter migrant, arriving here from July, peaking in autumn, and leaving from April onwards the following year. Like other plovers, it forages for marine invertebrates and crustaceans in a particular way: standing and watching, running forward, pecking, then standing still again.

How to identify

The Grey plover is similar to the Golden plover, but is bigger and greyer, with a sturdier black bill and long black legs. It has a spotted, white and silvery-grey back, and pale grey and white underparts. In spring, adults sport a black throat, chest and belly as they make their way north to their breeding grounds.


A common winter visitor to our coasts, large numbers can be found on estuaries such as The Wash, Humber, Thames and Dee.

Did you know?

Known in North America as the 'Black-bellied plover', the Grey plover breeds in Arctic coastal regions across the north of Alaska, Canada and Russia. It nests on the ground in shallow scrapes created in dry, open tundra.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a Living Seas vision, where coastal and marine wildlife thrives alongside the sustainable use of the ocean's resources. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.