This Father's Day, we're celebrating one of nature's greatest dads, the dotterel. The understated male of the species takes the lead on parenting duties in some of the most extreme habitats in Scotland.

Read on for five facts about these fascinating birds.

Whereas in most species, male birds have brighter plumage to help attract a mate, the roles are reversed for dotterels. Females are much brighter coloured and can attract multiple partners in a single season. That red breast could give a robin a run for its money.

Image credit: Mike Langman

This role-reversal continues into parenthood as after laying their eggs, female dotterels move on to find another partner while males incubate and raise the chicks. The females only return to help if they need to defend the nest from predators.

Despite being part of the plover family, which are often associated with wetlands, the only place to see dotterels in Scotland is on our highest mountain tops. The Cairngorm Plateau on our Abernethy nature reserve is a good place to spot them in summer, but make sure you’re well prepared for the trek!

Image credit: Chris Gomersall

While they arrive on our shores from Africa and the Middle East in the spring, they don’t necessarily stick around if things aren’t going well. Male dotterels who’ve yet to successfully breed will often move onto a completely different site. There has even been a record of a bird who started the breeding season in Scotland and finished it in Norway!

Because of their placid nature the Gaelic name for a dotterel is ‘madan-mòintich’, which means ‘fool of the moors’. Their English name dates from the 15th century when it was used as an insult for a slow or foolish person. Pretty harsh on a bird that thrives in some of Scotland’s harshest landscapes.


For more information about dotterels, check out our website.


Header image credit: Lutz Lücker. Original version here.