Wonderful Waders

28 March 2020 | Posted in Barry Yates , Rye Harbour , Birds , Wetland
Wonderful Waders
Ringed Plover incubating

I like wading birds, or shorebirds if you are American, or Charadriiformes if you are a scientist.

Waders are a group of about 350 birds living in some of the most remote places on the planet and some undertake long migrations. They come in a range of size and shape, smallest are sparrow sized and largest are pheasant, some with short legs and some ridiculously long, some with short bills and some long, most bills are straight, but some are curved down and some up and one sideways!  (the Wrybill in New Zealand). These different features are all about exploiting their own special food supply and it is this variety and the extremes that makes this group so interesting. 

Most waders live in wetlands, many are coastal, but some do live in dry habitats. In most waders the parental duties are shared, but in some the male does all the incubating and chick rearing, for example Red-necked Phalarope. Most waders lay four eggs that fit together neatly and when the chicks hatch they run around and feed themselves - they are precocial. But a few, like Oystercatcher do feed their chicks. Most waders are long lived - more than ten years.

Oystercatcher with large chick

Oystercatcher with large chick

I spent several years studying breeding waders in some amazing places - Redshank on the Ribble Estuary in Lancashire, Greenshank, Golden Plover and Dunlin in Sutherland and Red-necked Phalarope in Shetland. So coming to work and manage habitats with wading birds at Rye Harbour was a dream job. Seven species have nested here and 48 have been seen here! In the last 20 years we have been able to create more extensive wetland, both fresh and salt water, that has increased the potential for waders and the wader watchers. Our large winter flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover that roost on the nature reserve during the day will feed mostly on worms at night in the sheep grazed grassland all across Rye Bay. Although some species can be seen here all year round, all of our wading birds spend time elsewhere. For many waders Rye Harbour is just a brief stop over for feeding or resting on a long journey. For many waders it's important to have a global network of protected sites and many of these are Ramsar wetlands.

Avocet feeding (2)

Avocet feeding

During the current health crisis I thought it might be interesting to feature a wader a day on social media, because these are birds you are unlikely to see from your garden or on your local walk and 48 days may see us though our confinement. 

I started with the six that breed here each year:

#1 Lapwing, #2 Oystercatcher, #3 Redshank, #4 Ringed Plover, #5 Little Ringed Plover, #6 Avocet

Join us on TwitterFacebook or Instagram to discover more.

In trying to help people discover wading birds we have held many guided walks each year and some study days have concentrated on waders. Below is a crib sheet for Waders at Rye Harbour.

Waders at Rye Harbour

There is also blog by Graham Appleton called Wader Tales that gives a detailed insight to this wonderful group of birds. A recent article is about the 9 red listed UK waders which reflects the decline in most populations of breeding waders throughout the world.

Here at Rye Harbour the Sussex Wildlife Trust is doing everything possible to manage the land and water to benefit the waders that breed, roost, feed or migrate on this little bit of Sussex by the sea.

Golden Plover roosting (2)

Golden Plover roost


  • Jenny Green:

    02 Apr 2020 12:04:00

    Thank you for sending me these images…all so lovely…Spring is here…♡♡♡♡♡

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