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Guide to Shorebird and Wader ID

A photo of a Common Greenshank shorebird taken by Matthew Feargrieve

A Guide to Identifying, Ageing & Sexing Waders 

 using plumage and bare part characteristics

Matthew Feargrieve, shorebird and wader watcher, guides you through the identification, ageing and sexing of shorebirds and waders in their breeding and non-breeding plumages, in an illustrated study of feather and bare part characteristics.


After spending the 2020 covid lockdown on the North Norfolk coast in England, United Kingdom, Matthew Feargrieve has written up his field notes and observations of shorebirds - known as waders outside North America - in the field, collected over many years, and consolidated them into this illustrated online guide.


The focus in this guide is on juvenile (J), first winter (1w) and adult non-breeding plumage characteristics and variation. The differences between these plumages that are observable (with a little knowledge) in the field are explained with reference to individual feather tracts and moult cycles, and demonstrated with photographs taken in the field by a variety of bird watchers and photographers, including by Matthew Feargrieve himself

Click here to see our species-by-species guide to shorebird and wader identification and plumage.


This website also includes a basic guide to the topography of a wader, together with a bibliography detailing essential basic reading for all serious watchers of shorebirds. This will particularly appeal to the ambitious bird watcher who wishes to equip himself with the necessary skills and knowledge of shorebird topography and plumage variation.


This knowledge, which is easily assimilated, will enhance and enliven the birder's field observations by enabling him to observe a shorebird in given moult cycles at given times of year and arrive at an approximation of the bird's age and sex.

The field observations are collected in this website on an individual species basis, and are accompanied by a blog written by Matthew Feargrieve on the basic principles of shorebird observation. There is also a contact form by which users of this guide may supply their own observations and comment, which are always welcome!


The focus in this website is on non-breeding (winter) and intermediate (second calendar year, or 2cy) plumages of shorebirds that winter in non-breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere, and breed in the Western Palearctic region, whose seasonal variations in appearance - feather tracts and bare parts - are apt to cause the most confusion when seen by the field observer who wishes to determine the approximate age of the bird.


Where possible, photos that have been used in this website have been taken by wildlife photographers known personally to Matthew Feargrieve and briefed by Matthew on the age groups and plumage nuances that are needed to illustrate the field observations and guidance contained in the text. Where that has not been possible, suitable images of birds in the relevant age groups have been sourced by using freely available internet resources. Attribution to the photographers whose work they are has, where possible, been given.

Click here to head to our species-by-species guide to shorebird and wader identification and plumage.


Additional species of shorebird will be added to this online guide from time to time.      

Sillouette of Wind Turbine

Shorebirds Blog

Eurasian Curlew in breeding plumage by Artur Stankiewicz.jpg
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