Ian’s Bird of the Week – Double-banded Plover ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 6-2-13
As well as the bird of the week, here is the airport of the year or maybe of the century. The photo shows the departure gate on Lord Howe Island, more like someone’s picket-fenced front garden: no crowds, escalators, queues or security, and plenty of opportunities for last-minute birdwatching. When I was there 20 years ago, I left the airport after checking-in to check out a Royal Spoonbill which had landed at the nearby wetland. This time there were plenty of waders on and near the runway and a pair of Woodhens in the bush in front of the picket fence.
The waders included out-of-season ones such as Pacific Golden Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Ruddy Turnstones that had sensibly decided that spending the northern summer on Lord Howe was a much more attractive proposition that flying to Siberia to breed. There was also an in-season wader, the Double-banded Plover, in-season for reasons that I’ll explain in a moment.
Waders in non-breeding and immature plumage are notoriously confusing, representing either a challenge or a headache to identify, depending on one’s attitude, and small plovers are no exception. What struck me in this case, however, was that these plovers seemed to be doing their utmost to help the waiting passengers with identification by persistently choosing to stand on the double black bands painted on the apron. The bird in the second photo is an immature Double-banded Plover – immatures have buffish faces as well as the diagnostic – but often faint traces – of the double bands on the breast.
The bird in the third photo is an adult, still showing the upper blackish and lower chestnut breast bands characteristic of this species. It’s probably a male, as the bands are fairly wide and there are traces of a black upper edge to the white forehead.
The bird in the fourth photo is an adult male in breeding plumage at the most southerly breeding location of this species on Enderby Island, one of the chain of sub-Antarctic Islands south of New Zealand. The Double-banded Plover is a New Zealand endemic – where it is called the Banded Dotterel – and widespread as a breeding species also on both of the main islands. The bird in the fifth photo is a breeding female with narrower and less intense bands and no black fringe to the white forehead.
The bird in the sixth photo is an adult in non-breeding plumage with only faint breast bands and lacking the buffish background of the head of the juvenile. What is was doing in this condition on Enderby Island in the middle of the breeding season is anyone’s guess.
And finally the bird in the seventh photo shows a better view of an immature bird and the buff head markings contrast clearly with the corresponding white markings of the non-breeding adult. This bird had just arrived on the east coast of Australia for the southern winter when it is a fairly common species in southeastern Australia, Tasmania, Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. It is thought that the birds migrating to Australia for the winter are high-country breeders on the South Island: many others remain in New Zealand.
So, that’s why these birds are in-season in Australia in the southern winter. Any other waders here at that time of the year are either Australian residents (eg the somewhat similar Red-capped Plover) or northern hemisphere breeders that have stayed behind.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Bring forth every living thing that is with you of all flesh–birds and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the ground–that they may breed abundantly on the land and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth. (Genesis 8:17 AMP)
The Double-banded Plover (Charadrius bicinctus), known as the Banded Dotterel in New Zealand, is a small (18 cm) wader in the plover family of birds. It lives in beaches, mud flats, grasslands and on bare ground. Two subspecies are recognised, the nominate Charadrius bicinctus bicinctus breeding in New Zealand and the Chatham Islands and Charadrius bicinctus exilis breeding in the Auckland Islands.
Adults in breeding plumage are white, with a dark greyish brown back, and have a distinctive brown breast, with a thinner band of black below the neck, and between the eyes and beak. Younger birds have no bands, and are often speckled brown on top, with less white parts.
They are fairly widespread in the south of New Zealand, but not often seen in the north. The nominate subspecies is partly migratory, breeding in New Zealand and the Chatham Islands and some wintering in Australia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji, others staying in New Zealand. The Auckland Islands subspecies is sedentary but some birds move from their territories to the shore.
Their eggs are grey, speckled with black, making them well camouflaged against river stones and pebbles, which make up the main structure of their very simple nest. (Wikipedia with editing)
Double-banded Plover – Wikipedia
Charadriidae – Plovers Family