Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)- Species Action Plan

Ref 2/S20 Species Action Plan 20
Plan Author: RSPB (Anne Casey)
Plan Co-ordinator: Coastal BAP Topic Group
Plan Leader: RSPB / NE
Final Draft 30 April 2013
Plan Duration 2013 - 2018

Action Plan Summary

Current Status

In Europe, it is included in the Species of European Conservation Concern (SPEC) list, classified as Non Spec (E) - Concentrated in Europe but with a Favourable Conservation Status. Ringed plover is also listed on Appendix 2 of the Bonn Convention, and Appendix 2 of the Bern Convention.

The species is listed on the IUCN Red List as currently of Least Concern

National Status

Under the Birds of Conservation Concern listing (Eaton et al 2009) the ringed plover has an amber listing: moderate decline, 25% to 50% of UK breeding population over 25 years, species level and race hiaticula, and at least 20% of European (East Atlantic Flyway) non-breeding population in the Page | 2 UK.

BTO lists states 8,540 pairs in 1984 (Prater 1989: APEP06), and 5,438 (5,257-5,622) pairs in 2007 (Conway et al. 2008) for summer, 34,000 individuals for winter 2004-2009 (Musgrove, 2011) and 30,000 passage individuals.

The national breeding population is not monitored annually, but a BTO survey in 1984 showed increases throughout the UK since the previous survey in 1973-74 (Prater 1989). The 1984 survey revealed that over 25% of the UK population nested on the Western Isles, especially on the machair (Jackson et al. 2004).

Surveys in England and Wales revealed an increase of 12% in breeding birds in wet meadows between 1982 and 2002 (Wilson et al. 2005).

The BTO's repeat national survey in 2007 found an overall decrease in UK population of around 37% since 1984, with the greatest decreases in inland areas (Burton & Conway 2008, Conway et al. 2008, Conway & Burton 2009). Wintering numbers have been in decline since the late 1980s (Holt et al. 2011). The marked increase in nest failures at the egg stage has earned Ringed Plover a place on the NRS concern list (Leech & Barimore 2008).

Ringed Plovers have a wide breeding distribution around the coast of Britain and Ireland, breeding mainly on coastal sand, gravel and shingle beaches, upper saltmarshes and artificial habitats such as the shores of gravel pits and reservoirs. In England, East Anglia’s extensive sandy and shingle beaches between the Thames and the Humber is an important stronghold for the species.

Ringed Plovers that choose beaches for nesting are especially vulnerable to disturbance and in 1984 were already largely confined in some regions to wardened reserves (Prater 1989). Human usage of beach areas severely restricts the availability of this habitat to nesting plovers (Liley & Sutherland 2007)

Norfolk Status

  • There are 19 monitored sites in Norfolk where ringed plover has bred in the last twenty years: (Fig. 1 and Table 1). There are likely to be breeding birds elsewhere on the Norfolk coast but lack of monitoring means it is not possible to be accurate on these figures.
  • Coastal monitoring has confirmed breeding at 15 of these sites (Table 1) in the last five years, with breeding unrecorded at the other four traditional breeding sites.
  • In 1993, 297 breeding pairs were recorded along monitored sections of the Norfolk coast. However, numbers have fluctuated between 124 and 211 breeding pairs (Table 1). There is not a count on every site each year so annual totals may not be accurate.
  • This is 4 percent of the UK ringed plover breeding population.
  • Some Norfolk sites have exhibited good ringed plover productivity in recent years. Examples include Scolt Head Island, Gore Point and Blakeney Point (Table 1). Where pairs are successful these support the wider population where disturbance, predation, and tidal flooding result in breeding failure.

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Current factors influencing breeding success and survival

  • Disturbance: Ringed plover occupancy is significantly reduced in areas of high disturbance. In recent years, the East Anglian colonies have been affected significantly by a range of recreational activities, including beach users and dog walkers. As access to more remote sites and coastal land has improved over the past ten years (passing of the CRoW Act 2000) much concern has grown over the impact of increased human disturbance on ground nesting birds, including breeding ringed plover populations. Disturbance and predation may be linked as there may be increased opportunities for predators when adult birds are disturbed by people or dogs.
  • Predation: A large number of predators prey on ringed plover, of which, red fox Vulpes vulpes, common kestrel Falco tinnunculus and sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus are the main species. In addition, hedgehogs, gulls and mustelids have also been recorded predating ringed plover nests and chicks. Many of Norfolk’s ringed plover pairs have experienced poor productivity or failed entirely due to high predation levels.
  • The impact of coastal development: The construction, maintenance and running of various coastal infrastructure, notably ports and wind farms, can impact on breeding species through increased disturbance (people, traffic, noise and light) and reduced prey availability. These effects could reduce the breeding density, breeding productivity, or cause the birds to relocate elsewhere.
  • Sea-level rise/coastal squeeze: Ringed plover nests are facing a greater risk of being washed out due to rising sea-levels, and a reduction in size of breeding beaches due to beach scouring and dune encroachment. This issue may become worse in the coming years if shoreline management policies do not allow foreshore and beaches to adapt and be resilient to climate change.
  • More frequent storm events: Increased storm events in the future could act to reduce habitat availability. Conversely more shingle ridges could be formed providing additional habitat. Increased coastal access: The government is planning to designate a footpath, with spreading room, around the coastline of England. Unless planned for and managed, this could result in increased disturbance to breeding ringed plover around the Norfolk Coast, especially unprotected nests with no wardening.

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Current Action in Norfolk

    • Site fencing on some reserves during breeding season
    • Some pairs nest within fencing erected to protect little tern colonies.
    • Where nests are outside of fenced areas, nest cages are used on some sites. These are typically in areas close to areas managed by conservation organisations.
    • Site monitoring is carried out at specific locations to record breeding activity annually.
    • Some PhD research was undertaken in the late 1990s on ringed plover between Snettisham and Heacham.

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Action Plan Objectives and Targets


No national objectives or targets


  • Maintain number of pairs in Norfolk, as a minimum, at 2012 levels.
  • Maintain range of breeding pairs in Norfolk at existing sites (see Figure 1)
  • Increase Norfolk breeding population and range, from 2012 levels, over the life of the plan.

For more information, please download the full action plan at the top of the page.