Migratory. Though total winter range extends from western Europe and West Africa eastwards to India (and rarely further east), by far the largest numbers winter in Africa and these include even birds from north-east Siberia (those reaching South Africa having travelled 15000 km).
Very scarce to irregular winter visitor east of Bay of Bengal; less so in Indian subcontinent, where 8160 counted Pakistan and north-west India in 1975, and in wetter parts of Middle East, where c. 2000 winter Iraq. Small numbers winter in Mediterranean basin and western Europe (see Population). Yet these figures insignificant compared with those wintering in Afrotropical region, especially in Sahel and northern savanna zones (from Senegambia to Sudan). Nearly a million used a roost in Djoudj National Park (Sénégal delta), February 1972, and even larger numbers winter in Niger inundation zone (Mali) as judged from aerial sample counts in January 1972. Over a million winter in Sokoto region (north-west Nigeria) outnumbering all other Charadrii together (Mundy and Cook 1972); on River Yobe delta into Lake Chad (Niger/Nigeria), c. 500,000 in one area and perhaps double that within 25 km radius, March 1967. Also common in East and southern Africa south to Cape Province, and absent only from humid forested regions around Gulf of Guinea and in Congo basin. Tendency towards sexual separation in winter: those wintering Britain mainly males (Prater 1973), though females outnumber males by 15:1 in Kenya; both sexes reach South Africa, though females predominate markedly.
Birds ringed mostly as migrants, so limited knowledge of routes in relation to natal areas. Movement through Europe (much of it broad-front, overland) exemplified by recoveries of birds ringed Sweden : include migrants from Finland and USSR, and general trend is for south to south-west migration over Europe in autumn, when most Danish, West German, and Iberian recoveries occur; some winter western France and Mediterranean, others in West Africa (where some non-breeders also summer); but easterly shift (more direct return to presumed breeding areas) in spring, when most recoveries in Italy and (to lesser extent) in Algeria and Balkans. Degree to which European birds reach north-east Africa unknown; single Sudanese recoveries of birds ringed Sweden and Finland, but both were autumn migrants which may have originated further east. Some Finnish-ringed birds continue south-west towards North Sea countries, though most cross Russia (Baltic States, Byelorussiya, Ukraine); Afrotropical recoveries in Sudan (1), Mali (4), and Sénégal (1). Birds ringed Denmark found over arc from south (Italy, Tunisia) to south-west (western seaboard). Migrants ringed Britain come from Scandinavia and USSR; most continue south, with winter recoveries from France (6), Iberia (1), Morocco (1), and Mali (2); also confirmation of more easterly spring return route, with 10 out of 11 Italian recoveries in March and early April. Sénégal and Niger inundation zone seem to be main wintering areas for those European-ringed birds which cross Sahara, though these certainly include migrants emanating from USSR. Long east to west autumn movements across Eurasia in subarctic to temperate latitudes shown by eastern Siberian (mainly Yakutsk) recoveries of birds ringed as passage migrants in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, and West and East Germany, and of one ringed while wintering in Britain. Ringing in East and southern Africa has indicated birds concerned to be entirely Siberian; these use Great Circle routes via Black and Caspian Seas (Summers and Waltner 1979; G C Backhurst).
Having no share in nest or chick care, males disperse late June to early July; females and juveniles begin migrating in July. Important moulting areas for adults known around North Sea, in West Germany, and northern Caspian. Main movements across temperate Europe from end July to mid-September, though exodus on reduced scale continues to mid-November. First (( reach Sénégal mid-July (Morel and Roux 1966); trans-Saharan passage noted central Chad from 20 August, with peak in 2nd week September (Newby 1979). In Africa and southern Europe, return movement begins mid-February, with main exodus March and first half April; obscured, however, by large numbers of non-breeders which summer in winter quarters (even south of equator). Breeding areas reoccupied from mid-April around North Sea, but progressively later to north and east¾mid-June (even later in cold springs) in Siberia. As in better known case of Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, a proportion ringed as chicks appear to settle at considerable distances east to north-east of natal area; thus 2 Dutch birds found Poland and Smolensk (USSR), and singles from Denmark and Estonia found Arkhangel'sk (USSR), in subsequent summers.
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