Lesser Sand Plover on Lanzarote

Adult female of atrifrons group

Discovered two days ago (7th August) by Francisco Javier García Vargas and David Perez on Lanzarote, Canaries this delicious sand plover immediately raised (usual) the question of its identification. Is it a Greater or a Lesser Sand Plover and then which taxon does it belong too after that? It’s not that hard…


Thanks to Juan Sagardia who passed on the info and in discussion with the Spurn Migration festival celebrity speaker, Yoav Perlman, we are pretty happy it’s a Lesser.

Found on August 7th at  las Salinas de Janubio, Lanzarote
All pictures  below by  Francisco Javier García Vargas and David Perez with grateful thanks for sharing.

Reply from MG

Here are my personal thoughts. Any readers have more thoughts to add or disagree?

“Hi Juan and Yoav

I agree with Yoav. Structurally the bill and head immediately cry out Lesser. The bill lacks the slightly longer flattened tip of Great- which is even found on the small columbinus of the Middle east in a usually obvious way. Nice blackish legs – slightly encrusted (with algae) sometimes I think?

A big bonus is also that it clearly has some retained summer plumage in early August. This is MUCH better for both Lesser groups than any of the Greaters as their moult strategy is about 2 months later than Greaters (quite well known feature). So this it is NORMAL for Lesser (atrifrons and mongolus) to show variable summer colour plumages on the underparts in August. However it is rare/ very rare/ hardly ever happens in Greaters. They are in full grey and white winter plumage by August.

Adult female of ‘atrifrons’ group

I would even be confident that you can say that the Lanzarote bird is of the ‘atrifrons’ group as the two Lessers are really two separate species anyway, an adult female I guess (all written up the old Birding World article. See Ian Lewington’s plate below).

Cheers Martin”





Original plate by Ian Lewington illustrating Greater, Lesser and Mongolian Sand Plover ID based on our pioneering research at the time. Gorgeous!


Sandplover plate Ian Lew

One thought on “Lesser Sand Plover on Lanzarote

Leave a Reply