Nature with Nik Mitchell: The European Golden Plover

Golden Plovers Photo Keith Ross

Here with us in Thanet for the winter is a very festive looking and beautiful bird, the European Golden Plover.

It’s a small bird with a distinctive speckled gold-and-black plumage. During their winter stay with us at Pegwell Bay and the Minster marshes their black is replaced by light brown and white.

Most of the time when you are lucky enough to see them they are in a flock, high up in our skies. They fly close together with rapid wingbeats and they twinkle in the light.

Photo Keith Ross

In winter they inhabit low lying farmland and coastal flats like Pegwell Bay and the Minster marshes. It’s a big space for them to stick together, moving around feeding and flocking. This hungry little high-flying bird spends about 90% of daytime feeding.

Photo Keith Ross

When they are in-flight they can be very fast. In fact, they are so fast they changed history, well I mean they changed one of the ways we record it! In 1951 Sir Hugh Beaver – once owner of the Guinness brewery – was out on a shooting party. Whilst trying to shoot the birds fortunately they managed to evade him. His excuse for missing the birds with his shot gun was that they were too fast.

Photo Keith Ross

This led him and his friends on a quest to find the fastest game bird and they noticed there were many other interesting “world records” and this quest eventually led to the creation of the first Guinness World Records book in 1954.

So, look out for these beautiful golden birds with their sharp pointy wings flocking and twinkling in the skies around Pegwell and the Minster Marsh.

Photo Keith Ross

By May they will be heading off to their breeding grounds of the upland moors and even further north to Iceland, Faroe Islands, or Scandinavia for the summer.

Thanet nature expert Nik Mitchell runs the Get Wild page on facebook


  1. i expect someone will want to destroy pegwell bay if they hear these birds reside there , they seem to be doing all over thanet anyway

    • Maybe nobody will deliberately try to destroy Pegwell Bay but many will let their dogs charge around driving the birds off the mud, and others will go windsurfing which has the same effect.

  2. I see the crested plover (nickname peewit from its call or Lapwing) in the foreground, they are also around and are quite rare internationally and we in Thanet are lucky to have flocks of them around as well. They fly off to Africa and Asia to breed but many get shot on the way. Being on the migration route of many birds we are really lucky to see so many species. I even had a hoopoe in my garden for nearly a week back in the 80’s after a storm blew many African birds to SE England. Beautiful bird.

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