Metallic glossy green upperparts, blackish crest and bronze scapulars, very broad wings, especially in breeding males. Female has lees distinctive head pattern and white flecks on throat. Non breeding adult has buff face, and white chin and throat. Juvenile similar to non breeding akult, but has more extensive buff feather fringes and narrower and browner breast band.
Breeds in variety of wide open habitats with short vegetation or bare ground, including various wetlands, heaths, moors, arable fields, meadows and hay fields. Outside breeding season also appears on harvested stubble and ploughed fields. Roosting flocks prefer spacious, old pastures and sometimes appear on mudflats.
Vanellus vanellus is a widespread breeder across most of Europe, which probably
holds >50% of its global population. Its European breeding population is very large
(>1,700,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although several small
populations were stable or increased during 1990-2000, the species suffered declines
across much of Europe-most notably sizeable populations in the United Kingdom,
Netherlands and Russia-and underwent a large decline (>30%) overall.
This plover inhabits boreal, temperate, steppe and Mediterranean regions of Europe and Asia, from Iberia to Finland and from Iceland and the British Isles to China. It breeds also in North Africa. European populations winter in West Europe, from the British Isles to Morocco, and in the Mediterranean regions. The population of the European Union (12 Members States) is estimated at 500000-600000 breeding pairs and the total European population - a major part of which is visiting the European Union during winter - at 2.2-11.4 million pairs. In many regions this bird is declining following wetland reclamation, intensification of agriculture and use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers
Feeds on invertebrate pry, primarily earthworms and insects, including beetles, ants, moths and crickets, also spiders and snails. On arable fields, adults and chicks take mainly cranefly larvae and earthworms. Sometimes feeds by foot trembling. Diurnal and nocturnal, sometimes even primarily nocturnal on bright, moonlit nights.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 4,400,000-7,000,000 individuals. Despite evidence of a large decline in the European population (1,700,000-2,800,000 pairs) during 1999-2000, populations in Asia are believed to be stable, and the European population figures may be an underestimate. The species is therefore not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Breeding starts in March-June, mostly seasonally monogamous, but sometimes polygamous. Territorial during incubation, solitary breeder, with average densities. High degree of site faithfulness in males, and high degree of natal philopatry, usually nesting within 60 km of hatching site. Nest is shallow scrape, lined with some vegetation, situated in short grassy vegetation. 4 eggs, incubation 21-28 days. Downy chick pale brown or cinnamon, with black streaks and blotches and white nape. Chicks tended by both parents, although brooding primarily by female. Age of first breeding 1 year.
Mainly migratory, though some western and southern sub-populations only partially so. Sensitive to prolonged cold; hence winter distribution (and associated migration pattern) reflects preference then for maritime climate and general avoidance of continental-type weather. Britain and Ireland constitute northernmost regular wintering areas, though small flocks remain in Denmark and Germany. Dispersal from breeding areas begins late May and June, when many adults in particular make long westward movements. Thus many from central Europe move west to north-west in early summer to Low Countries and Britain, while some pass south-west into Italy and southern France. Summer movements merge into autumn migration during September-November as increasing numbers of juveniles leave natal areas. Unlike leisurely summer movements, autumn passage typically a rush migration with onset of frost season. European ringing recoveries show broad-front passages predominantly towards south-west, along western seaboard, and into Iberia and North Africa, with eastern birds (including those from Finland) reaching Italy and crossing central Mediterranean into North Africa. In more northern wintering areas (British Isles and Low Countries) occasional spells of very cold weather in winter lead to pronounced movements, which can occur any time between autumn and spring passages. Such movements to some extent south to south-west (more reach North Africa in colder European winters), but also westwards across North Sea and England into Ireland. Spring passage begins early-from late January in southern wintering areas¾and in temperate Europe is at peak in early March. Breeding grounds reoccupied March-April, averaging later in north and east.