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Plover

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The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels, and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water, although there are some exceptions. There are 66 species worldwide and 19 species which occur in Namibia.

Blacksmith Plover Vanellus armatus


The Blacksmith Lapwing or Blacksmith Plover (Vanellus armatus) occurs commonly from Kenya through central Tanzania to southern and southwestern Africa. The vernacular name derives from the repeated metallic 'tink, tink, tink' alarm call, which suggests a blacksmith's hammer striking an anvil.

Blacksmith Lapwings are very boldly patterned in black, grey and white, possibly warning colours to predators. It is one of five lapwing species (two African, one Asian and two Neotropical) that share the characteristics of a carpal (wing) spur, red eye and a bold pied plumage. The bare parts are black. Females average larger and heavier but the sexes are generally alike.

The Blacksmith Lapwing occurs in association with wetlands of all sizes. Even very small damp areas caused by a spilling water trough can attract them. In South Africa they are most numerous in the mesic grassland region, less so in higher-rainfall grasslands. Like the Crowned Lapwing, this species may leave Zambia and Zimbabwe in years of high rainfall and return in dry years. It avoids mountains of any type.

Blacksmith Lapwings expanded their range in the 20th century into areas where dams were built and where intensive farming was practiced. Consequently they are now numerous and established in the western Cape region of South Africa, where they were absent until the 1930s. In this region they have also entered estuarine mud flats in winter where they aggressively displace other waders.

The species reacts aggressively to other lapwings or African Jacanas that may enter its wetland habitat. It breeds in spring, but its choice of nesting site and timing may be opportunistic. The young separate gradually from their parents and do not return to natal areas afterwards. They feed on aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.

Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva (A)


The Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) is a medium-sized plover.

The 23–26 cm long breeding adult is spotted gold and black on the crown, back and wings. Its face and neck are black with a white border and it has a black breast and a dark rump. The legs are black. In winter, the black is lost and the plover then has a yellowish face and breast, and white underparts.

It is similar to two other golden plovers, Eurasian and American. Pacific Golden Plover is smaller, slimmer and relatively longer-legged than Eurasian Golden Plover, Pluvialis apricaria, which also has white axillary (armpit) feathers. It is more similar to American Golden Plover, Pluvialis dominica, with which it was once considered conspecific (as "Lesser Golden Plover", see Sangster et al., 2002). The Pacific Golden Plover is slimmer than the American species, has a shorter primary projection, and longer legs, and is usually yellower on the back.

This bird forages for food on tundra, fields, beaches and tidal flats, usually by sight. It eats insects and crustaceans and some berries.

American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica (A)

Adults are spotted gold and black on the crown, back and wings. Their face and neck are black with a white border; they have a black breast and a dark rump. The legs are black.

It is similar to two other golden plovers, Eurasian and Pacific. The American Golden Plover is smaller, slimmer and relatively longer-legged than Eurasian Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) which also has white axillary (armpit) feathers. It is more similar to Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) with which it was once considered conspecific under the name "Lesser Golden Plover".[2] The Pacific Golden Plover is slimmer than the American species, has a shorter primary projection, and longer legs, and is usually yellower on the back.

These birds forage for food on tundra, fields, beaches and tidal flats, usually by sight. They eat insects and crustaceans, also berries.

Large numbers were shot in the late 19th century and the population has never fully recovered.

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola

The Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola), known as the Black-bellied Plover in North America, is a medium-sized plover breeding in arctic regions. It is a long-distance migrant, with a nearly worldwide coastal distribution when not breeding.

They are 27–30 cm long with a wingspan of 71–83 cm, and a weight of 190–280 g (up to 345 g in preparation for migration). In spring and summer (late April or May to August), the adults are spotted black and white on the back and wings. The face and neck are black with a white border; they have a black breast and a white rump. The tail is white with black barring. The bill and legs are black. They moult to winter plumage in mid August to early September and retain this until April; this being a fairly plain grey above, with a grey-speckled breast and white belly. The juvenile and first-winter plumages, held by young birds from fledging until about one year old, are similar to the adult winter plumage but with the back feathers blacker with creamy white edging. In all plumages, the inner flanks and axillary feathers at the base of the underwing are black, a feature which readily distinguishes it from the other three Pluvialis species in flight.

On the ground, it can also be told from the other Pluvialis species by its larger (24–34 mm), heavier bill. In spring and summer, mating season comes and the adults' bellies of this species turn black whether the bird is still in its wintering place (for example, on a beach in Sanibel Island, Florida) because it does not want to migrate, or in its breeding grounds up in the arctic of northern Canada and Alaska.

Young birds do not breed until two years old; they typically remain on the wintering grounds until their second summer.

They forage for food on beaches and tidal flats, usually by sight. The food consists of small molluscs, polychaete worms, crustaceans, and insects. It is less gregarious than the other Pluvialis species, not forming dense feeding flocks, instead feeding widely dispersed over beaches, with birds well spaced apart. They will however form dense flocks on high tide roosts.

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula

The Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) is a small plover.Adults are 17-19.5 cm in length with a 35–41 cm wingspan. They have a grey-brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with one black neckband. They have a brown cap, a white forehead, a black mask around the eyes and a short orange and black bill. The legs are orange and only the outer two toes are slightly webbed, unlike the slightly smaller but otherwise very similar Semipalmated Plover, which has all three toes slightly webbed, and also a marginally narrower breast band; it was in former times included in the present species. Juvenile Ringed Plovers are duller than the adults in colour, with an often incomplete grey-brown breast band, a dark bill and dull yellowish-grey legs.

This species differs from the smaller Little Ringed Plover in leg colour, the head pattern, and the lack of an obvious yellow eye-ring.

The Ringed Plover's breeding habitat is open ground on beaches or flats across northern Eurasia and in Arctic northeast Canada. Some birds breed inland, and in western Europe they nest as far south as northern France. They nest on the ground in an open area with little or no plant growth.

These birds forage for food on beaches, tidal flats and fields, usually by sight. They eat insects, crustaceans and worms.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius


The Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) is a small plover. Adults have a grey-brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with one black neckband. They have a brown cap, a white forehead, a black mask around the eyes with white above and a short dark bill. The legs are flesh-coloured and the toes are all webbed.

This species differs from the larger Ringed Plover in leg colour, the head pattern, and the presence of a clear yellow eye-ring.

Their breeding habitat is open gravel areas near freshwater, including gravel pits, islands and river edges in Europe and western Asia. They nest on the ground on stones with little or no plant growth. Both male and female take turn to incubate the eggs.

They are migratory and winter in Africa. These birds forage for food on muddy areas, usually by sight. They eat insects and worms

Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius


The Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecuarius) is a small plover found in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and the Nile delta. Some birds, especially in coastal areas, are resident, other populations are migratory or nomadic.

The adult Kittlitz’s Plover is 14–16 cm long. In breeding plumage it has a grey-brown back, crown, and wings, an orange breast shading to white on the lower belly, and long dark grey legs. The forehead and throat are white, with black lores and a black frontal bar, the latter extending as a stripe down the sides of the neck and around the hind neck.

In winter, the adults lose the distinctive face pattern and resemble Kentish Plovers, but they are smaller, longer-legged and longer-billed. They have less uniform upperparts than Kentish, and always show a pink or orange breast colouration. Juvenile Kittlitz’s Plovers are similar to winter adults, but the underpart colour is often restricted to just a narrow gorget. In flight, the primary flight feathers are dark with a short white wing bar.

The Kittlitz’s Plover forages for food on open dry mud and short grass, usually close to water. The specific name, pecuarius, means "grazer", referring to the grassland habitat. It hunts usually by sight for invertebrates including insects, earthworms, crustaceans, and molluscs.

Its breeding habitat is open ground on beaches or dry mudflats, near water, and with little or no plant growth. The nest is a simple scrape, and both parents incubate the usually two eggs. If a potential predator approaches the nest, the adult will walk away from the scrape, calling to attract the intruder and feigning a broken wing. Of course, once the intruder is far enough from the nest, the plover flies off. If the adult has enough warning, she will stand above the eggs and shuffle sand and debris over them before moving away from the nest.

Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris

The Three-banded Plover or Three-banded Sandplover, Charadrius tricollaris, is a small wader. This plover is resident in much of eastern and southern Africa and Madagascar, mainly on inland rivers, pools and lakes. Its nest is a bare scrape on shingle.

The adult Three-banded Plover is 18 cm in length. It has long wings and a long tail, and therefore looks different from most other small plovers in flight, the exception being the closely related Forbes's Plover which replaces it in west Africa.

The adult Three-banded Plover has medium brown upperparts, and the underparts are white except for the two black breast bands, separated by a white band, which give this species its common and scientific names. The head is strikingly patterned, with a black crown, white supercilia extending from the white forehead to meet on the back of the neck, and a grey face becoming brown on the neck. The eye ring and the base of the otherwise black bill are red.

This species is often seen as single individuals, but it will form small flocks. It hunts by sight for insects, worms and other invertebrates. Three-banded Plover has a sharp whistled weeet-weet call.

White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus


The White-fronted Plover or White-fronted Sandplover, Charadrius marginatus, is a small wader. This plover is resident in much of Africa south of the Sahara on rocky, sandy or muddy coasts and large inland rivers and lakes.

Adults are 16–18 cm in length, and are paler than similar species. The breeding adult has medium brown upperparts, with a white hind neck collar and a brilliant white forehead extending back in a conspicuous wedge between the eye and the crown. There is a black line through the eye and a black frontal bar to the crown. The underparts are white with a variable cream or buff wash to the breast. There may be rufous patches on the breast sides. The bill is black and the legs yellowish-grey.

Non-breeding adults are greyer than the breeding birds, and the black head marking are replaced by brown. The frontal bar may be absent in some females. The juvenile White-fronted Plover resembles the non-breeding adult, but has white underparts and no black on the head.

The White-fronted Plover's breeding habitat is sandy beaches; the eggs are laid directly on the sand, and may be buried. The adults will take water to the nest in their breast feathers. It feeds actively with fast runs like a Sanderling, usually hunting by sight for insects, crustaceans and worms. This is a gregarious species which forms flocks, often with other waders.

The call is a clear wiit, and there is a tukut alarm note.

Chestnut-banded Plover Charadrius pallidus

The Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus) is a species of bird in the Charadriidae family.

It is found in Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Rarer than previously believed, it is uplisted from a species of Least Concern to Near Threatened in the 2007 IUCN Red List.[1]

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus

The Kentish Plover, Charadrius alexandrinus, is a small wader in the plover bird family. Despite its name, this species no longer breeds in Kent, or even Great Britain. It breeds in a wide range, from southern Europe to Japan and in Ecuador, Peru, Chile, the southern USA and the Caribbean. The subspecies in the Americas are called Snowy Plover. In French it is called Gravelot À Collier Interrompu.

The Kentish Plover is 15–17 cm long. It is smaller, paler, longer-legged and thinner-billed than Ringed Plover or Semipalmated Plover. Its breast band is never complete, and usually just appears as dark lateral patches on the sides of the breast. The Kentish Plover's upperparts are greyish brown and the underparts white in all plumages. The breast markings are black in summer adults, otherwise brown. Breeding males of some races have a black forehead bar and a black mask through the eye. The legs are black. In flight, the flight feathers are blackish with a strong white wing bar. The flight call is a sharp bip.

This species breeds on sandy coasts and brackish inland lakes, and is uncommon on fresh water. It nests in a ground scrape and lays three to five eggs. The breeding birds in warmer countries are largely sedentary, but northern and inland populations are migratory, wintering south to the tropics.[1] Food is insects and other invertebrates, which are obtained by a run-and-pause technique, rather than the steady probing of some other wader groups.

This bird has six geographical races. The most distinctive are the two that breed in the Americas, collectively called the Snowy Plover. They are shorter-legged, paler and greyer above than the Old World subspecies, and breeding males lack a rufous cap. The eyemask is also poorly developed or absent. Genetic research published in 2009 strongly suggests that the Snowy Plover is a separate species.[2] The Indian and Sri Lankan breeding form also lacks a rufous cap, and has only a weak eyemask. The Kentish Plover is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

The western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus syn. Charadrius nivosus) breeds from Texas and Oklahoma west to California and up the coastline to Oregon and Washington, with the coastal form's primary breeding concentration in central and southern California.[3] The Pacific Coast population has been designated a Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

In many parts of the world, it had become difficult for this species to breed on beaches because of disturbance from the activities of humans or their animals. The University of California, Santa Barbara, is currently endeavoring to rehabilitate snowy plover populations by protecting beaches along the central California coastline that runs along part of the university campus.[4] UCSB has had some success in encouraging reproduction; the university also often trains students and other volunteers to watch over protected beaches during the daytime to ensure no one disturbs nesting grounds.

Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus

The Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus, is a small wader in the plover family of birds. The spelling is commonly given as Lesser Sandplover, but the official British Ornithologists' Union spelling is Lesser Sand Plover.

There are five races, and the large east Asian forms, C. m. mongolus and C. m. stegmanni, are sometimes given specific status as Mongolian Plover, Charadrius mongolus. If the taxonomic split is accepted, Lesser Sandplover as then defined becomes Charadrius atrifrons, including the three races atrifrons, pamirensis and schaeferi.

It breeds above the tree line in the Himalayas and discontinuously across to bare coastal plains in north-eastern Siberia, with the Mongolian Plover in the eastern part of the range; it has also bred in Alaska. It nests in a bare ground scrape, laying three eggs. This species is strongly migratory, wintering on sandy beaches in east Africa, south Asia and Australasia. It is a very rare vagrant in western Europe, but, surprisingly, of the three individuals recorded in Great Britain up to 2003, one was a Mongolian Plover.

Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii

The Greater Sand Plover, Charadrius leschenaultii, is a small wader in the plover family of birds. The spelling is commonly given as "Greater sandplover", but the official British Ornithologists' Union spelling is "Greater sand plover".

It breeds in the semi-deserts of Turkey and eastwards through Central Asia. It nests in a bare ground scrape. This species is strongly migratory, wintering on sandy beaches in east Africa, south Asia and Australasia. It is a rare vagrant in western Europe, where it has been recorded as far west as Great Britain, France and Iceland. It has been spotted twice in the Western Hemisphere, the most recent being on May 14, 2009, in Jacksonville, Florida.[2]

This chunky plover is long-legged and thick-billed. Breeding males have grey backs and white underparts. The breast, forehead and nape are chestnut, and there is a black eye mask. The female is duller, and winter and juvenile birds lack the chestnut, apart from a hint of rufous on the head. Legs are greenish and the bill black.

In all plumages, it is very similar to Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus. Separating the species may be straightforward in mixed wintering flocks on an Indian beach, where the difference in size and structure is obvious; it is another thing altogether to identify a lone vagrant to western Europe, where both species are very rare. The problem is compounded in that the Middle Eastern race of the greater sand plover is the most similar to the lesser species.

Its food consists of insects, crustaceans and annelid worms, which are obtained by a run-and-pause technique, rather than the steady probing of some other wader groups.

Its flight call is a soft trill.
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Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus

The Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus) is a wader in the plover family of birds.

It breeds on open grassland in central Asia, mainly to the north and east of the Caspian Sea. This bird breeds in loose colonies, with three eggs being laid in a ground nest. These birds migrate south in winter to east Africa, usually still on grassland or arable. This plover is a very rare vagrant in western Europe. It is also a rare vagrant to Australia.

It feeds in a similar way to other plovers picking insects and other small prey mainly from grassland or arable.

This attractive plover is slightly larger than Ringed Plover, and it recalls Greater Sandplover and Lesser Sandplover in appearance. It is slimmer and longer-legged than the sandplovers, and has a much stronger white supercilium, and a long thin bill. It also lacks white tail sides and a weak wing bar.

Summer males have grey-brown backs and a white face and belly. The breast is chestnut, bordered black below. Other plumages have a grey-brown breast band, although the summer female may show a hint of chestnut. The call is a sharp chip.

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