Golden Plover

Irish Name: Feadóg bhuí
Scientific name: Pluvialis apricaria
Bird Family: Plovers
Conservation status


Summer visitor from France & Iberia (though possibly some remain year-round in Ireland) & winter visitor from Iceland. Most in Ireland between October & February


Smaller than Grey Plover, with narrower, more pointed wings. Golden brown upperparts, which look grey at close range. Males in summer have more black below than females - extends from throat, towards each eye, and ventrally under neck, chest and belly. In winter, males and females similar in appearence, with no black underparts.


Flat whistle 'puu' in flight or when alarmed. Rythmic song 'pu-pee-oo' repeated in display flight, often followed by a repeated 'perpurrlya' when alighting, or when on the ground.


Feed on a variety of soil and surface-living invertebrates, principally beetles and earthworms, but also on plant material such as berries, seeds and grasses. They regularly feed in association with Lapwing & Black-headed Gulls.


Breed in heather moors, blanket bogs & acidic grasslands. Distribution limited to the uplands of northwest counties in Ireland.


Throughout the winter, Golden Plovers are regularly found in large, densely-packed flocks, and in a variety of habitats, both coastal and inland. Their distribution is widespread in Ireland.

Blog posts about this bird


BirdWatch Ireland welcomes An Bord Pleanala decision on Boyne Greenway proposal

BirdWatch Ireland welcomes An Bord Pleanala’s decision to uphold the need to protect sites for threatened bird species by refusing to grant permission for a proposed new section of the Boyne Greenway. The proposal for the construction of a pedestrian walkway and cycleway from Drogheda town to Mornington Village in County Meath was refused by An Bord Pleanala (ABP) at the end of August. In its report, ABP stated that it was not satisfied that the local authority has demonstrated beyond reasonable scientific doubt that the proposed development would not adversely affect the integrity of three protected sites – Boyne Coast and Estuary Special Area of Conservation (SAC), River Boyne and River Blackwater SAC and the Boyne Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA). It noted that an absence of detailed information about a 2.4 km boardwalk proposed to be built inside the protected areas meant that avoiding adverse effects on these sites could not be guaranteed should the development go ahead. ABP also stated that it was not satisfied that important sand dune habitats would not be damaged by the greenway, nor that post-consent monitoring aimed at mitigating damage could be relied upon. The impact of increased human activity along the Boyne Estuary and the risk of adverse impact that this could have on wintering waterbirds of the Boyne Estuary SPA was also noted, with ABP adding that it was not satisfied that proposed mitigation measures would be effective in preventing disturbance of these species. This refusal and the reasons behind it are in line with concerns that have been raised by us since the project was initially put forward. We made our first submission to An Bord Pleanala regarding the greenway during the initial public consultation process in September 2020. While, as an environmental organisation, we welcome initiatives that reduce car usage and subsequently, greenhouse gas emissions, we objected to this development due to the significant threat to the bird life in the Boyne Estuary SPA. With 2.4 km of the greenway proposed for construction within the boundary of the Boyne Estuary SAC and SPA and adjacent to the River Boyne and River Blackwater SAC, we had strong concerns about the threat of human disturbance and potential displacement this could cause to waterbirds in this area. From information provided by the developers, BirdWatch Ireland estimated that 210,000 new walkers including with dogs and cyclists would be using the boardwalk within the habitats for migratory waterbirds during the winter period when the birds are refuelling and resting before returning to Greenland, Iceland and the high Arctic to breed. Migratory birds need access to safe roosting and feeding sites in order to rest and feed while overwintering in Ireland. However, disturbance from pedestrians, cyclists and dogs can cause birds to leave or completely avoid certain sites, leading to increased daily energy expenditure coupled with insufficient rest and fuel levels. This negatively impacts the ‘fitness’ of these birds (defined as the ability of an individual to survive, and breed and produce viable offspring, hence securing future generations of the species), so therefore can lead to population declines. As the frequency and duration of human activity on the proposed greenway would be high, there is no doubt that it would lead to disturbance to the bird life in the SPA. BirdWatch Ireland made an additional submission in May 2022 following a request by ABP for further information from Meath County Council. On reviewing the additional information provided, we concluded that those proposing the project had not proved that disturbance caused by the greenway could be mitigated by their suggestions of screening and signage along the boardwalk. Our submission was underpinned by Irish Wetland Bird Survey (I-WeBS) data showing both national and site-specific declines in the waterbird species listed for the Boyne Estuary SPA. Of the ten wintering waterbirds of special conservation interest listed for the Boyne Estuary SPA, half have a declining site status based on the long-term 23-year trend – Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Lapwing and Turnstone. The fact that these species are in decline at sites that are designated to provide a safe space for them underscores its unsuitability for a greenway. It further highlights the failures of the relevant authorities to manage existing activities that are causing deterioration of habitats and disturbance to waterbirds. The sand dune habitats, in particular, have undergone a great amount of damage due to a lack of management. The overarching Conservation Objective for Boyne Estuary SPA “is to ensure that waterbird populations and their wetland habitats are maintained at, or restored to, favourable conservation condition”. We welcome the fact that, in this instance, this objective and threats posed by development to already vulnerable waterbirds have been acknowledged. However, looking forward, we believe there is a clear need for strategic guidance on greenway proposals, guidance which gives equal footing to biodiversity, climate and the needs of local residents. Not only would this approach prevent environmental damage, it would also reduce the amount of time and public money spent deliberating such proposals. BirdWatch Ireland fully supports the development of greenways and initiatives that promote a modal shift in transport. These have obvious important benefits to climate but also economic and well-being benefits. However, it is vital that such developments do not come at a cost to our biodiversity, which is already experiencing pressures from all sides. In May 2019, Dail Eireann declared a climate and a biodiversity emergency. Both must be addressed together.

BirdWatch Ireland expresses disappointment at outcome of Open Seasons Order review

BirdWatch Ireland acknowledges publication of changes to the Open Seasons Order by Minister Noonan for the coming season. The removal of four duck species – Scaup, Pochard, Goldeneye and Pintail – due to severe declines in their populations shows some progress by the Minister to address the vulnerable status of these species. However, BirdWatch Ireland is disappointed that two additional species that we recommended for removal – Shoveler and Golden Plover – remain on the list though the science clearly shows declines in those populations also. No rationale has been provided as to why these species remain on the list. The information provided announcing the decision is inadequate and lacking detail. The most severe impacts to waterbirds and wading birds that are on the Open Seasons Order relate to habitat loss and degradation, pollution, disturbance and climate change. However, every pressure and threat must be addressed considering the dire conservation status of many of the species that are huntable in Ireland. We hope that hunting organisations will support this decision and we also hope that government will assist hunting organisations to be able to contribute to data collection in Ireland. Earlier this year, BirdWatch Ireland called for six of the 21 bird species currently permitted to be hunted under the Open Seasons Order to be removed from the list, a suggestion underpinned by the robust scientific evidence of their ongoing declines in Ireland. We also urged for more analysis to be undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to determine how best to proceed in relation to nine of the other species listed. These proposals were some of many made as part of our submission to the public consultation on the review of the Open Seasons Order for Birds.
scaup-on-water Launched on March 22 by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, this consultation was aimed at gathering views to ensure that the hunting of the listed species was sustainable and in line with Ireland’s obligations under EU legislation. It also offered an opportunity to put forward other suggestions in relation to improving data collection and protecting vulnerable bird species in Ireland. In the submission, BirdWatch Ireland stated that Shoveler, Scaup, Pochard, Goldeneye, Golden Plover and Pintail should be removed from the list of species permitted for hunting. Of these species, five are Red-listed species on the Birds of Conservation Concern Ireland (BOCCI) list, while one – the Pintail – is an Amber-listed species. Indeed, data from BirdWatch Ireland’s Irish Wetland Bird Survey (I-WeBS) – one of Ireland’s longest-running wildlife monitoring programmes – has shown steep short- and long-term declines in the populations of these species. According to the latest I-WeBS data, which is collected in a standardised manner and analysed using best practice methods developed by international scientists, the Republic of Ireland population of Pochard is estimated to number 4,729 individuals, with estimates for the other species even lower – Shoveler (1,865), Goldeneye (1256), Pintail (1,017) and Scaup (167). BirdWatch Ireland has also called for further analysis to be undertaken by the NPWS in relation to nine of the other species listed – Tufted Duck, Snipe, Mallard, Woodcock, Teal, Gadwall, Red Grouse, Wigeon and Jack Snipe. Of these species, three are currently Red-listed (Snipe, Woodcock, Red Grouse), with five Amber-listed (Tufted Duck, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon) and one Green-listed (Jack Snipe). Declining populations as underpinned by IWeBS data coupled with a number of data gaps give serious cause for concern for these species. BirdWatch Ireland called for the NPWS to carry out additional analysis of the data for these species across their wintering and breeding populations and range, in order to inform the best next steps to take for them. In addition to the suggested changes to the Open Seasons Order Species list, BirdWatch Ireland made a number of other suggestions in its submission. It is calling for the Open Seasons Order to be reviewed more regularly, particularly in light of the ongoing threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) and the rapid negative change that could occur in a population as a result of an outbreak. Supporting hunting organisations in the collection of data, extending the network of wildfowl sanctuaries, implementing a more regional- and county-based approach for certain species and addressing the issue of disturbance at important wetland sites are some of the other suggestions put forward by BirdWatch Ireland. Throughout the submission, BirdWatch Ireland noted the Irish Government’s ongoing failure comprehensively to address the conservation of wild bird species and its poor track record in upholding its environmental commitments under EU law. This is despite Dáil Éireann’s declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency in 2019, and the well-established fact that Ireland’s wild birds are faring worse than ever. Indeed, BirdWatch Ireland’s Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland assessment in 2021 showed that 63 per cent of Ireland’s regularly occurring species are Red or Amber listed birds of conservation concern. All birds, including Red and Amber-listed species, are facing numerous human-induced pressures and it is vital that the individual and cumulative impacts of these pressures are addressed. If the State wishes to have any chance of reversing populations declines, it urgently needs to enforce environmental legislation, as well as ensure sectoral policies such as agriculture, afforestation, renewable energy and peatlands have conservation of bird species integrated firmly in their plans and processes.

Similar Species

Grey Plover

Irish Name:
Feadóg ghlas
Scientific name:
Pluvialis squatarola
Bird Family: