This plover is smaller and more compact than European Golden Plover. It has a striking whitish supercilium in all plumages and has plain wings in flight. Adults in summer are unmistakable, with a chestnut breast bordered above with white, black belly and warm brown back. The legs are yellow, and the short bill is black. As with the phalaropes, the female is brighter than the male. Winter birds lack the rich underpart colouration, apart from the white breast line, and are greyer above. Young birds are similar but have a scaly appearance to their backs.

Habitat and Distribution

The Dotterel breeds in the Arctic tundra of northern Eurasia, from Norway to eastern Siberia, and on suitable mountain plateaus such as the Scottish highlands and the Alps. This species is migratory, wintering in a narrow belt across north Africa from Morocco eastwards to Iran. The winter habitat is semi-desert.


The Dotterel's food is insects and other small invertebrates such as snails and worms and shellfish. These are obtained by a run-and-pause technique.


It nests in a bare ground scrape and lays two to four eggs. The male Dotterel generally is responsible for incubation and looks after the chicks.

Calls and Songs

The flight call is a soft pyurr. The female's song is a simple repetitive whistle.