Saturday, October 01, 2011

Shorebirds: Sand Plovers

Set myself a personal challenge to learn to identify as many migratory shore birds that drop in on our mud flats. Thus far I think I am doing pretty well with up to 15 species under my belt.
Below was a small flock of Lesser Sand Plovers or Mongolian Plovers taken several weeks ago. These birds have an extensive although discontinuous distribution that extends from the Pamir Mountains in the west, through Central and North-east Asia to the Chukotsky Peninsula in the north-east.
They are still in their breeding plumage.
non-breeding plumage

These birds will leave their breeding grounds and migrate south-west, south or south-east to winter along the coasts of East Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South-east Asia and Australia. Hence, we have the opportunity to see these birds. 
Then there's another species that is very similar to the Lesser Sand - the Greater Sand Plover. This species breeds in the semi-deserts of Turkey and eastwards through Central Asia and winters on sandy beaches in East Africa, South Asia and Australasia. They too have landed in Singapore and they are not easy to tell the two species apart. I spent two days sitting on a beach trying to spot the Greater among the Lesser. The trick is focusing on the bill and legs - the greater has longer and paler legs and longer and thicker bill.
greater sand plover

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