Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-fronted Dotterel

Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) by Ian

Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-fronted Dotterel ~ by Ian Montgomery

It is easy to think of waders, such as sandpipers and plovers, in terms of challenges – both the survival challenges that long distant migrants face and the identification challenges that these migrants, usually in non-breeding plumage, pose for birders. So, it’s easy to overlook the unchallenging ones – distinctive native species, easy on the eye and easy to identify that are delightful members of the Australian countryside such as the Black-fronted Dotterel.

The Black-fronted Dotterel is a small plover: at 16-18cm/6-7in in isn’t much longer than the proverbial sparrow (14-16cm). It shows a marked preference for shallow fresh water, only rarely occurring in saline environments, and can manage with quite small and transient pools. It is widespread throughout Australia and Tasmania, absent only from the most arid regions of western central Australia, and also resident in New Zealand. The first photo shows a bird – males and females are identical – on the wetland in Pentland on the Flinders Highway west of Townsville, a popular drop-in spot for passing birders. The second photo was taken at sunset at Bowra, a wonderful property near Cunnamulla in southwestern Queensland, long managed in a bird-friendly way by the McLaren family and now being purchased by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy ( http://www.australianwildlife.org/Bowra.aspx ).

Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) by Ian

Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) by Ian

Unlike the migrants, residents such as the Black-fronted Dotterel, don’t have a separate breeding and (drab) non-breeding plumages. Because of irregular rainfall patterns, they can breed at any time of the year and need to be able to respond quickly and attract mates at short notice. They nest in exposed positions on the ground, so they compromise by having bold patterns with small splashes of colour on the bill and eye-ring that break up the outline of the bird, rather than blend into the background, and can be surprisingly difficult to see when crouched motionless.

On the related subject of migrant plovers, this is a good time of the year to look for birds in, or acquiring, breeding plumage. We did one of our regular wader counts at Lucinda, near Ingham north of Townsville, last week and there were still numbers of Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers around. I’ve posted photos of these – and a Grey-tailed Tattler – in breeding plumage to the website:
Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Grey-tailed Tattler

Best wishes,

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:

I always enjoy finding out about Ian’s Birds of the Week. Never know what he will show us. I trust you enjoy finding out about birds in other parts of our fantastic world as well.
The Dotterels are in the Charadriidae Family of the Charadriiformes Order. There are 67 birds in the family that includes Plovers, Lapwings, Killdeer, Wrybill, and the Dotterels. There are only 6 Dotterels; Red-kneed, Eurasian, Hooded, Shore, Black-fronted, and Tawny-throated. The Inland Plover was the Inland Dotterel

I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. (Isaiah 41:18 KJV)

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