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 Kentish Plover - Fact File

Kentish Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus
Rare visitor to S and E coasts. Formerly bred in southern England.
Coastal - sandy beaches and tidal flats.

Palest of the ringed plover group with diagnostic black legs. Incomplete breast band and chestnut cap on male (female has grey-brown cap and lacks black band on forehead.

17 cm (6½")

Kentish Plover

Although appearing annually as a passage migrant, the Kentish plover remains one of our rarest visitors. The first pair for 1978 put in an appearance at Cley Marsh during the second week of April, and have provided pleasure for many ornithologists.

I spent an afternoon observing the female Kentish, obtaining good views from an observation hide. The speed with which it ran was remarkable - quite as fast as a sanderling. The bird would run a short distance, pause and then dash on again.

Nearby shelduck, black-tailed godwits and shovelers dwarfed this highly attractive visitor.

In 1977 a pair of Kentish remained at Salthouse for several weeks, but on each occasion that display commenced, the birds were attacked by extremely aggressive ringed plovers. As far as I'm aware there was no real nesting attempt.

The spring of 1977 was a good one for passage Kentish plovers. Early in June, I watched one at Breydon Water where others were identified earlier in the spring. Other haunts in recent years include Hickling Broad, Blakeney harbour, Horsey Wolferton and the Ouse Washes. In Suffolk, as one would expect, the most favoured spots for Kentish plovers are Halvergate Island and Minsmere Level.

During the past decade, over 80 Kentish plovers have been recorded in Norfolk and Suffolk; the majority in May. A few years ago, one visited Breydon in mid-December. This is a unique occurrence and the only winter record in recent years. The late Dr Riviere's History of the Birds of Norfolk records three winter birds, all of which were shot. Remarkably, a group of no less than 14 Kentish visited Havergate Island in mid-September 1960.

Kentish plovers have never been known to nest in Norfolk, but in 1952 a pair attempted to breed on the Suffolk coast at Walberswick. Most, unfortunately, they reared no young. The English stronghold was Romney Marsh where up to 40 pairs formerly bred. But nowadays the bird is a lost breeder due to man's activities.

Michael J. Seago

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Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge
© Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.