Pluvialis squatarola (Grey plover) 

Grysstrandkiewiet [Afrikaans]; Zilverplevier [Dutch]; Pluvier argenté [French]; Kiebitzregenpfeifer [German]; Tarambola-cinzenta [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Charadriidae > Genus: Pluvialis

Pluvialis squatarola (Grey plover)  Pluvialis squatarola (Grey plover)

Grey plover in post-breeding moult, De Mond Nature Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Grey plover. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds in Arctic tundra from the White Sea of north-western Europe across Asia to northern Canada, heading south in the non-breeding season to coasts across the world between 55° North and 40° South. In southern Africa it is common along the coast, while it is a vagrant further inland, generally preferring muddy or sandy intertidal areas of estuaries or sandy or rocky coasts. It often roosts on salt-marshes, sandbanks, beaches or dunes.

Distribution of Grey plover in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Southern African birds are thought to originate from the Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia, departing in August and heading south through Ukraine, Romania and Italy before eventually arriving in southern Africa in September. It leaves the region in the period from February-April, mainly in April.


It mainly eats intertidal invertebrates, especially polychaete worms, typically using the typical, run-stop-search technique of plovers. It hunts visually by day and night, although it takes longer for it to locate small animals in the dark. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • polychaete worms
      • Ceratonereis
    • crustaceans
      • crabs
        • Cleistostoma
        • Hymenosoma orbiculare
        • Thaumastoplax spiralis
      • Upogebia africana (estuarine mud prawns)
      • Callianassa kraussi (sandprawns)
      • amphipods
        • Exosphaeroma hyloecetes
      • mysid shrimps
      • barnacles
    • molluscs
      • small clams
      • Assiminea bifasciata (snails)
    • insects and their larvae
      • flies, including Lonchoptera
  • Vertebrates
    • fish


Not threatened, in fact its population is thought to be increasing in size.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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