Do golden plovers always stay in flocks?
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.