Dotterel Habitat

Breeding Areas and Migration

Dotterel Plumage and the Bird's Name

Dotterel Behaviour and Food

Dotterel Courtship Display, Nest and Chicks

Dotterel Habitat, Breeding Areas and Migration

Get more interesting bird information and facts at The Wonder of Birds

Continued from Dotterel Courtship Display, Nest and Chicks.

Habitat and Breeding Areas of the Dotterel

The areas where Dotterells reside are disjunct, with some distance separating these areas from each other.  The Dotterel  is usually an inhabitant of areas northwards of the polar circle and somewhat high areas of tundra and lichen. It prefers dry areas which are to a large extent flat and with only meager, low vegetation, which allows the bird to see over a conderable distance. Areas with isolated vegetationless sections andinterspersed with stone are particularly preferred. The comparatively rarity of these habitats in the Eurasian tundra areas partly explains the way in which the populations are very much split up.

As well as Scotland, and in the Scandinavian tundra areas, the European breeding places are in high-altitudes in the alps in the Graubunden confederation of Switzerland at approximately 2600 meters, as well as in Austria where breeding populations exist irregularly on the Zirbitzkogel at approximately 2200 meters in the state of Styria, and in some mountain areas in the state of Carinthia. In Central Europe the Dotterel prefers mountains with gentle slopes and wide plateaus, which have a scanty overgrowth of Alpine Sedge Mat (Caricetum curvulae).  In the Abruzzo region of Central Italy the Dottererl's habitat consists of nearly vegetationless chalky rubble with only occasional isolated islands of vegetation.  The population of Dotterels in Abruzzo National Park is however very small in number.  In some mountain regions of Europe the Dotterel occurs in extremely small individual numbers and unfortunately it no longer breeds regularly in these European mountains.

Completely deviating from this habitat type, Geographically completely isolated broods occurred in low-lying "polder" areas  in the IJsselmeer lake in the Netherlands from 1961 to 1969.  These polder areas in the Netherlands were used intensively for agriculture, making such broods of dotterels quite surprising.  At the polar circle this species breeds near the sea level, but in central Asia at hights of over 3500 meters.

The Dotterel occurs in the northern part of the Urals mountains, on the Kola peninisula and in the southern part of Novaya Zemlya in Northern Russia. A large, closed migration area lies in the Altay Mountains in Central Asia, and their Eastern foothills; it stretches top the south and Northeast of Lake Baikal which is the oldest and deepest lake in the world. In Siberia, between the mouth of the River Ob and that of the River Lena the Dotterel seems to occur only very rarely or to be missing completely. The data about this area is anyhow partly contradictory. Only east of the River Lena begin again large, occurrences of the Dotterel, which reach eastward in Anadyr and southeastward in a broadly protruding finger of land into the Verkhoyansk Range of mountains and up to the central area of the Kolyma River. Again isolated from these occurrences the Dotterel probaly breeds on the Chukchi peninsula and on some Siberian islands as well as on the Taymyr peninsula.

 Whether the Dotterel still occasionally breeds in to the Vosges mountains, or in the High Tatra mountains, as well as in the Karkonosze mountains is not well-known.  Observations of broods and are however reported from these areas.  It is also unclear whether the species is still a breeding bird in the Pyreneeses or in the Carpathian Mountains as well as in some places of north Greece, and how large is the number of pairs breeding in these places.


All Dotterel populations are migratory, with a relatively small wintering area compared to the bird's enormous areas of population in the breeding season.  The most substantial wintering areas for the majority of the European birds lie in northwest Africa, in particular in the Atlas area. The asiatic populations visit the Sinai peninsula, as well as in Iraq and Iran. By at the end of of July the breeding areas are vacated, the females taking off about 3 weeks before the males and young birds.  The migration takes place on traditional migration routes in a broad front, usually in small troops or groups of from 20 to 30 individuals.  Many of the European birds seem to reach their winter accomodation in a non-stop flight. The East Asian birds travel a distance of up to 10,000 kilometers on their migration.

The home migration begins in the middle of February.  By the middle of March all Dotterels have left their wintering area. The bird's arrival back in the breeding areas starts from at the end of of April.
Previous...Dotterel Courtship Display, Nest and Chicks.


Home to the Wonder of Birds

This page ©