Saturday, 31 August 2019

FOY - Common Ringed Plover

It took a while.  It was getting to the tail end of the migration of adult COMMON RINGED PLOVERS. One finally showed up on the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland.  Richard Thomas first noticed this bird of interest at Trepassey on 28 August but did not get a satisfying enough view to convince himself. His grainy pictures showed an intriguing bird.  So much so that Dave Brown went down to Trepassey the next day to look for it but after six hours no go, but got a small consolation in the form of a Baird's Sandpiper. Two days later I was at Trepassey with Alison Mews and Ethel Dempsey looking for the Baird's Sandpiper.  It was not on the outer beach but there was a Semipalmated-like Plover with a very nice looking white band over the eye. This had to be the bird that Richard had seen.  Finally after reaching the end of the beach it turned around and started running back toward us. The black mask highlighted by the distinct even, broad white supercilium screamed out Common Ringed Plover.

Photography conditions were challenging. It was very warm with tropical humidity with fog blowing in off the ocean and burning up when it reached 100 m inland. The sun was high creating heat shimmer off the beach sand. The following are some of the pictures. Dave Brown appeared on the scene as well.

The first picture. The bold white line over the rear ear coverts is often the first clue that you have a Common Ringed Plover in your midst. Caution: female Semipalmated Plover can have an extensive white supercilium but they lack the bold black head markings of a Common Ringed Plover.

There is a formula starting off with that prominent, sharply defined white supercilium. The black ear covert patch shaved off along the bottom edge is accented by the white supercilium. This impression is lacking with the Semipalmated Plover.

The breast band width is flexible on the little plover. With this view one could easily overlook the rarity staring you in the face.

The breast band on this bird is narrower than the average adult Common Ringed Plover in August in Newfoundland.  Is it a female?

Key features of a Common Ringed Plover are the white of the forehead hooking in under the eye.  And the lack of pale yellowish orbital ring but see below.

The breast band is of flexible width depending on the posture of the bird.


This the more typical Common Ringed Plover we are used to seeing on the Avalon Peninsula in August. This was photographed at Renews 26 August 2018.  The breast band is much wider than the Trepassey bird.  This must be a male?


Below are pictures of adult Common Ringed Plovers taken in Northern Ireland on 7 Feb 2019.  This is a different race than the birds that nest in the Canadian Arctic.  The Canadian birds are part of the subspecies psammodramus  which includes the birds nesting in Greenland and Iceland.  The birds I saw  wintering in Northern Ireland could have been hiaticula (British breeders) or tundrae (northern Eurasian breeders). Both of these races are smaller and darker than psammodramus.  I think the Canadian breeding are the largest and palest of all Common Ringed Plovers which make them more distinct from Semipalmated Plover than the other two races. The Irish Common Ringed Plovers are a different beast.
The wintering Common Ringed Plovers in Northern Ireland had the distinct black head markings but the breast bands were very similar to the width of Semipalmated Plovers.

Don't look too close or you will see a pale orbital ring. Don't you know the lack of orbital ring colour is a good clue for Common Ringed Plover and the presence of such means it can't be one! I saw several with light yellowish orbital rings out of maybe 200 Irish individuals seen close enough.

This is an allowable amount of webbing between the middle and outer toe for Common Ringed Plover. Pretty difficult to judge the extent of webbing on these plovers. I consider it a very shaky field character at best.


  1. congrats my friends and i found one in vancouver of all places in july. your photos are great thanks for sharing your great find

  2. Thanks for your sharing, it helps me a lot and I think I'll watch your post more.