Plovers and other sea-birds near Big Bay, Cape Town.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

White-fronted Plover (Vaalstrandkiewiet) Charadrius Marginutus

Plover Beach is situated between Big Bay and the Horse Trails at Blouberg (Blaauwberg) Strand, Cape Town, South Africa.

Here the survival of the little Plover birds are presently threatened.

This happened when pristine beaches, bordering a nature reserve, became a public beach, because the most popular public beach along this stretch of coast were sold out to developers.

The Oystercatchers who used to breed in this area, suffered the same fate.

They have left now, and I am not sure if they will return. (They returned 2009 but were unable to reproduce due to the heavy pedestrian traffic on the beach)


* Measurements: About 18 cm long.

* Weight: About 72 grams

* Eyes: Dark brown.

* Bills: Black, straight (fairly broad for their size)

* Extremities: Legs and feet are black or grey.

* Colour: Above light sandy-grey; Below white, sometimes washed pale pinkish buff on breast, (especially in more easterly parts of range)

* Forehead and eyebrow: White,

* Crown: Blackish,

* Collar: White (also on hind neck),

* Black line through eye stops at the ear coverts,

* In flight: Conspicuous white bar on secondaries.

* Tail: Dark with white outer feathers;

* Feet: Do not extend beyond tail.

* (our Blouberg birds have three toes on each feet, and no back toe)

* Immature: Lacks blackish fore-crown; pure white below.

* Chick: Above very pale grey with broken pattern of black down midline of crown and back, below white.

* Song: Voice: Gentle piping wit or twirit on takeoff and in flight.

* Alarm note: Sharp kittup

* Threat note: drawn-out churrr .

* Distribution: Africa South of he Sahara, and Madagascar; in s Africa mainly coastal, but also on bigger rivers — Zambezi and larger tributaries (not Kariba), Limpopo to Tuli Circle, Sabi, Nuanetsi and Lundi Rivers; also Lake Mellwaine, Zimbabwe, n Botswana, Caprivi and Etosha Pan.

* Status: Common resident, may have local movements.

* The numbers of these birds may be declining rapidly, and we need to keep an eye on them, We need to leave an uninterrupted space for their breeding.

* The Blouberg Plovers will be extinct in a few years, as the beach opens to holidaymakers.
This may be the trend at many beaches along the coast.

There may be breeding space for the Cape Plovers near Koeberg nature reserve, though, I have not been to that beach recently, but will go and have a look during Spring.

* Habitat: Sandy shores of marine and larger inland waters (lakes, pans, rivers).

* Habits: Usually in pairs; flocks of up to 100 birds when in not breeding.

* Runs very fast, sideways; usually tucks head into shoulders; forages along waterline, among kelp and other debris, and away from water into dunes. Flies fast and low when disturbed, settles a little way off, bobs and runs. (the bird I watched, darted forward and pecked the food – one peck.)

* Food: Mainly insects; also crustaceans, arachnids, worms, molluscs. (Our birds love to peck at the insects in the seaweed.)

* Breeding: Season: All months on coast.

* Nest: Scrape in sand, gravel or shingle, sometimes lined with small pieces of shell; usually just above high water, sometimes well up from beach or on inland side of coastal dunes; usually next to driftwood, seaweed or other object.

* Clutch: 1-2-3 eggs (usually 2).

* Eggs: Pale putty colour or creamy buff, sparsely marked with fine spots and lines of blackish brown

* Incubation: 26-33 days by both sexes,

* eggs partly covered with sand by parent when disturbed at nest.

* Fledging: 35-38 days, young cared for by both parents.

(Information from Roberts’ birds of Southern Africa)

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