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16 Aug 2022

KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: The wetland bird that can fake an injury

KILDARE WILDLIFE WATCH: The wetland bird that can fake an injury

The ringed plover. Picture: Catherine O'Connell

For the first time in 2022 we have enjoyed some fabulous dry, bright and warm weather. It certainly got me thinking about the summer ahead and, living in a landlocked county, I always enjoy a visit to the coast.

Indeed some of you may have already taken a day trip over the long weekend to explore the wild coastline of Ireland.

This week I have chosen a wildlife species that is resident all year along the Irish coast, the ringed plover (feadóg chladaigh as Gaeilge). According to BirdWatch Ireland, the populations of this coastal wetland bird are considered Green in terms of their conservation concern — however, in the UK this species is considered Red which means that in the UK the populations of ringed plover are at risk.

The ringed plover has grey/brown feathers on its back, white feathers below and a white and black head. The legs are orange and the beak is also orange with a black tip.

Its diet consists of snails, flies, marine worms and spiders.

The Ringed Plover builds a shallow depression in the ground as a nest on sandy or shingle beaches.

The Irish Wetland Bird Survey has also recorded this bird breeding on grazed pasture along rivers or lakes close to the coast.

The female will lay three to four pale grey eggs with brown spots. Both male and female incubate and rear the young.

Once the chicks hatch, it takes approximately 24 days before they can fly. As this species is ground nesting, the adults help to protect the chicks from predation by using a distraction technique.

To distract a predator from the nest the adult ringed plover will leave the nest by hopping and moving a sufficient distance away. In some cases this little bird will even fake an injury!

Once the adult feels the predator has been distracted far enough away from the nest, the uninjured bird will fly away for its own protection.

Don’t forget if you come across a wildlife species that you would like help identifying I would be happy to help.

Contact me at bogs@ipcc.ie.

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