Do golden plovers al­ways stay in flocks?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q&A - Gra­ham Ap­ple­ton

Over 400,000 golden plovers win­ter in the UK, with lo­cal breed­ing birds joined by ar­rivals from as far afield as Ice­land and Rus­sia. In­land, they are some­times en­coun­tered in flocks num­ber­ing 1,000 or more, and are rarely seen on their own. The birds spend much of the day roost­ing, typ­i­cally on open, ploughed fields where they can spy ap­proach­ing preda­tors.

All changes as dark­ness falls. The birds spread out over har­rowed fields, sugar beet stub­bles and young crops, us­ing their large eyes to find in­ver­te­brates in the low light. A study has found that the birds key in on fields re­cently spread with ma­nure and that, as by day, they pre­fer large, open fields. Day­time feed­ing is more likely in cold weather and af­ter over­cast or moon­less nights. Over the past three decades the species has in­creased on es­tu­ar­ies; this may be linked to re­duced in­ver­te­brate pop­u­la­tions on arable fields.

Golden plovers take to the air when dis­turbed, then set­tle again.

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