Ian’s Bird of the Week – Oriental Pratincole ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 11/12/156
This post is a bit late, so you get two species by way of amends!
I was at the opening of an excellent exhibition of North Queensland ‘breeding birds and their dream homes’ called Nestled at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville on Tuesday and got talking to one of the local members of BirdLife Townsville about the bird of the week. He requested something unusual of local interest that might occur here at this time of the year and mentioned Oriental Cuckoo and Oriental Plover. Oriental Cuckoo was bird of the week in December 2007 and I don’t have any good photos of Oriental Plover. I’ve only ever seen it in airports (Lockhart River and Norfolk Island) and I’ve never risked the wrath of airport security to get close to the birds. So the best I could come up with, Bill, is Oriental Pratincole photographed at the Townsville Town Common where a flock appeared nine years ago. I can’t get more local than that!
Oriental Pratincoles breed in Asia with a patchy distribution from India to eastern Siberia, Mongolia and NE China. In the northern winter they migrate to Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea and northern Australia with perhaps 50,000 reaching our shores. They are late migrants arriving in the Top End of the Northern Territory during the build-up to the wet season (November) and their main Australian range is from the Gulf of Carpentaria in NW Queensland west to the north coast of Western Australia. They show a preference for dry inland plains with available water and feed mainly on insects such as grasshoppers. 2006 was, like this one, a very dry year in Townsville and these photos were taken on the dry bed of one of the wildlife observation ‘wetlands’ at the Common. They also turn up sometimes on the Atherton Tableland.
Pratincoles are unusual birds somewhere between plovers and terns in appearance and morphology. They belong to a small family, the Glareolidae, which consists of 8 species of pratincoles in Eurasia, Africa and Australia and 9 species of mainly African Coursers. The odd name pratincole means ‘inhabitant of meadows’ with the ‘prat’ bit having the same root as ‘pratensis’ in the European Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis). The family name comes from the Latin for gravel, and that’s actually closer to the mark when it comes to preferred habitat.
The Oriental Pratincole is distinguishable from the Australian Pratincole by its dumpier, shorter-tailed appearance, greyish-olive rather than buffish-brown plumage and by a black margin to the throat giving the appearance of a necklace. The Oriental Pratincole is normally in non-breeding plumage when in Australia, but both species have black-tipped bills with red bases when breeding. The Australian Pratincole has chestnut flanks and belly when breeding and the dark flanks are retained in non-breeding plumage.
Pratincoles look very tern-like in flight with their long pointed wings. Both the local species have white rumps and black-tipped tails, but the tail of the Australian Pratincole is square, while that of the Oriental is forked.
If you belonged to the bird of the week club a year ago, you may remember that the Cream-coloured Courser was, after the Crab Plover was my second most wanted bird in Dubai. Courser means ‘runner’, something they do very well and it was very appropriate to find them at the Polo Club and at the Al Asifa Endurance Stables. Incidentally, the bird of the week club currently has 981 members and you know I like milestones. Please encourage your friends to join so we can reach 1,000 either by signing up on the bird of the week page (recently redesigned for mobile devices) or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas is looming ever closer, so this wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory commercial. What do you give to the digitally-competent birder or nature-lover who has everything? An electronic book of course and both Apple and Kobo have facilities in their ebook stores for giving gifts. I’ve included a Giving Gifts section on the Publications page with help on how these stores let you give gifts. Google has facilities only for giving the equivalent of a gift token and not specific items. These book images are linked to their web pages:
And don’t forget Nestled at the Museum of Tropical Queensland if you are in, near or visiting Townsville.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 email@example.com
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au
Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel. (Proverbs 20:17 NKJV)
Thanks, Ian, for another interesting bird to introduce us to. Also glad you help distinguish several apart. Most of us that have never seen these birds could mix them up. Thanks for sharing these neat birds with us.
Now that Ian is a published writer, his book might well be a prized gift for yourself or others.
Cream-coloured Courser ~ 9-27-14
Crab Plover ~ 9-22-14