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A photo of a Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus), male
Eurasian Dotterel, Male

Eurasian Dotterel

Charadrius morinellus

The Eurasian dotterel, known simply as the dotterel in Europe, is a small and charming member of the plover family. This bird is characterized by its brown and black streaks, a distinctive broad white eye stripe, and a vibrant orange-red chest band when adorned in its breeding plumage. Intriguingly, the female outshines the male in coloration, a trait not commonly seen in the avian world.

Identification Tips

When observing the Eurasian dotterel, look for its smaller and more compact stature compared to the European golden plover. Its wings are plain in flight, and it sports a striking whitish supercilium across all plumages. In summer, adults are unmistakable with their chestnut breast, white border, black belly, and warm-brown back. The legs are a bright yellow, and the bill is a stark black. In winter, the birds lose their rich underpart coloration and appear greyer above, while juveniles resemble adults but with a scaly back pattern.

Habitat

The dotterel favors the Arctic tundra of northern Eurosiberia for breeding, ranging from Norway to eastern Siberia. It also breeds on mountain plateaus such as the Scottish Highlands and the Alps. During winter, it migrates to semi-desert habitats across North Africa, from Morocco to Iran.

Distribution

This species is migratory, breeding in the northern reaches of Europe and Eurosiberia, and wintering in North Africa and the Middle East. It follows traditional migration stopovers, often in inland arable or grassy sites.

Behaviour

The Eurasian dotterel employs a run-and-pause technique to forage for insects, snails, worms, and shellfish, rather than the steady probing typical of other waders. The male takes on the primary role of incubation and chick-rearing, with the female departing to find another mate and lay additional eggs.

Song & Calls

The flight call of the dotterel is a soft "pyurr," while the female's song is a simple, repetitive whistle.

Breeding

The dotterel nests in a bare scrape on the ground, laying two to four eggs. The male incubates the eggs and rears the chicks, with genetic evidence suggesting that he typically rears his own offspring.

Similar Species

The Eurasian dotterel can be distinguished from similar species by its unique breeding plumage, compact size, and the female's brighter coloration.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists mainly of small invertebrates, which the dotterel captures using its distinctive foraging technique.

Conservation status

The Eurasian dotterel is classified as "Least Concern" by the IUCN, with populations appearing to decline slowly. However, a survey in Scotland indicated a significant decrease in breeding males between 1987 and 2011, suggesting regional concerns for the species' future. The dotterel is also protected under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds.

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Eurasian Dotterel Fun Facts

Did you know?
Male Eurasian Dotterels are duller than females as they incubate and look after the chicks.

Eurasian Dotterels on Birda

Sightings

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