Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Egyptian Plover

order : Charadriiformes      Genus & Species : Glareolidae     Family : Pluvianus aegyptius

The Egyptian plover is the sole species in the genus Pluvianus. A spirited bird that adds a splash of color to villages and farmland, the Egyptian plover also fascinates with its clever use of sun, sand and water when rearing its young. Slightly hunched in appearance on the ground, the Egyptian plover reveals its stunning plumage and pointed wings in flight.They found across sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Ethiopia; found mostly north of the equator, but extends to Angola in the southern tropics; populations in Egypt have become extinct. 

Habitat : The plover inhabits the edges of several of the great rivers of Africa, including the Nile, Congo and Niger. But its habitat needs mean that it is found only on certain stretches. The plover favors sandbars, which break the surface where rivers run wide and shallow. It also favors slow-flowing waters moving through lowland scrub or lightly wooded savannah. After the breeding season, when many sandbars disappear under floodwater, the plover may be found in a broader range of wetland sites, including the gravel shores of freshwater lakes. It dislikes densely forested riverbanks, and is rarely seen on saltwater estuaries. The plover often frequents riverside villages, from which it may venture into nearby cultivated fields. 
Food & Feeding : With its quick-stepping gait, the Egyptian plover resembles a windup toy as it races across the ground in pursuit of insects. Short sprints are punctuated by halts and sudden changes of direction. Spiders, beetles and other scurrying invertebrates are captured in this way, and some flying insects are also caught after a chase. The bird also creeps up on flies resting on the ground until they are within striking distance of its bill. Most hunting takes place on exposed sand or gravel, either in rivers or along their banks. The plover also forages by wading into shallow water and pulling out any prey that it can reach without submerging its head. The Egyptian plover unearths worms, mollusks, subterranean insects and their larvae by probing with its bill in damp sand or by digging into the surface with both feet. It can even lift pieces of driftwood and overturn stones of almost its own weight. The plover drinks from streams and lakes. Occasionally, it seeks food away from water, moving to open ground. 
Behavior : The Egyptian plover is one of the tamest of birds, living happily alongside villagers and behaving with indifference toward fishermen. Whether its fearlessness lives up to its alternative name of crocodile-bird is open to debate. As long ago as the fifth century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus spoke of a small bird entering the open jaws of basking crocodiles to remove leeches from their mouths. Reports of this behavior have persisted ever since. As yet, there remains no proof of it, although the plover is remarkably bold in the presence of crocodiles and may run across their backs. This brave bird is equally undaunted by birds of prey. It chases and even attacks black kites, which are more than three times its size. Its pugnacious nature extends to its own species during the breeding season, but at other times of the year the plover is more social, forming flocks of up to 60. 
Breeding : No other bird has breeding habits quite like those of the Egyptian plover. It nests during the dry season, when river levels are low enough to expose banks of sand in midstream. On its chosen sandbar, it scrapes out a hollow in which to lay its eggs. At night, the clutch is incubated with body heat by one of the parents, but shortly after dawn the sitting bird rises, covers the eggs with sand, and leaves them unattended. By mid-morning, with the sun threatening to overheat the nest, the parents cool the sand with water ferried in their belly plumage, and continue to dampen the nest until late afternoon. The chicks can run an hour after hatching. When a predator approaches, they nestle down and stay still while their parents cover them with sand. 

Bill : The short bill is strong enough to probe among gravel and larger stones in search of food. 
Plumage : At close range, a green gloss can be seen on the black feathers of the head, back and breast band. The sexes are alike. 
Feet : The absence of a hind toe is an adaptation for life on the ground, enabling unimpeded movement when the bird runs across soft sand on its three forward pointing toes. 
In Flight : The wings are noticeably broad at the base, giving them an almost elliptical appearance, accentuated by the black-and-white pattern. 

Weight : 2.5–3 oz. 
Length : 7.5-8.4"
Wingspan : 19-20"
Sexual Maturity : 1 year
Breeding Season : Varis with location 

Outside the breeding season, the Egyptian plover may join flocks of the spur-winged lapwing, Vanellus spinosus, a member of the plover family.

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