The descriptive text, below the map, is from the Cornish Red Data Book (2009). The map on this web page depicts the organisms distribution and shows the records made pre-2000 and those made since.
Range & Status
Holarctic; in Britain and Ireland 20,000 winter in localised groups, chiefly in N. and NE Britain. Numbers wintering in SW England are few by comparison. Sporadic or very rare breeder in Scottish highlands.
Cornwall: passage migrant and winter visitor; a total of 100-125 now winter, but numbers fell by one third between 1994 and 2004, resulting in some previously regular sites being abandoned (Godrevy, Hannafore and Spit Point at Par). The most favoured site is by Jubilee Pool at Penzance where 20-50 gather on rocks. The trend is reversed at Sennen Cove where numbers increased from 12 in 1995 to 44 in December 2004. Isles of Scilly: total of about 100-150 in winter, includes 30 on St. Mary' s, 20 St. Agnes and ten on St. Martin' s.
Habitat & Ecology
Winters in small groups on rock beaches and headlands, feeding in the ' splash zone' , often with Turnstones Arenaria interpres . Cryptic plumage and relatively confiding nature renders it easily overlooked.
The decline in Cornish wintering birds is difficult to understand, but could be linked to ' global warming' as we are towards the southern limit of the winter range of this Arctic breeding species.
Monitoring of known sites. Careful searching of coastal rocks might reveal overlooked sites.
I.J. Bennallick, S. Board, C.N. French, P.A. Gainey, C. Neil, R. Parslow, A. Spalding and P.E. Tompsett. eds. 2009. Red Data Book for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 2nd Edition.Croceago Press.
The Cornish Red Data Book Project was led by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Federation for Biological Recorders (CISFBR). The full text and species accounts (minus the maps) are available on the CISFBR website.