Skye bird guide to Golden Plover – moorland breeder

This Skye bird guide to Golden Plover draws attention to a species that is very easy to miss when visiting Skye.  It is mainly found only on higher moorland and hill tops in spring and summer where it breeds.  Despite being a wader, often associated with coastal areas in winter time, it spends almost no time on the shore during the breeding season.

Hard to spot Golden Plover

Hard to spot Golden Plover

If you are familiar with golden plover in winter it is a very different looking bird compared to its finest breeding plumage of black chest and golden speckled back that blends in so well with its grassy and rocky habitat of its open upland breeding sites where it feeds on invertebrates as well as berries and seeds.

To see one you’ll have to head for the hills from April onwards. Those staying at Springbank, our Skye self catering holiday cottage have several hills nearby, Ben Cleat and Ben Meabost, which both hold breeding pairs.  The Kylerhea hills are an excellent area for Golden Plover, and the hilly area between Suardal and Suishnish, off the Broadford to Elgol road also has reliable sites.

Plaintive call announces its presence

Plaintive call announces its presence

Listen out or its plaintive, lonely-sounding whistle.  If you hear it repeated frequently then you are getting too close so try and work out where it is and walk away if it doesn’t take off.  Picking the birds out is not easy.  Binoculars are a great help and guests at Springbank have the use optics as part of our environmental activities offer.

Once you’ve located the bird sit tight and watch it interact with its partner.  Quite often they make their alarm call and then run a short way away, which makes locating them that much harder.  You hear the call but then can’t see the bird where the call came from!

There’s a good chance you will also see Dunlin nearby as these tiny little birds often nest near to Golden Plover to take advantage of the plovers attentiveness and early warning calls of potential danger.  Seeing both birds in their handsome breeding plumage in the Skye hill in summer are definitely worth the effort!