Charadrius marginatus (White-fronted plover) 

Vaalstrandkiewiet [Afrikaans]; Unocegceya, Unotelela [Xhosa]; Vale strandplevier [Dutch]; Pluvier à front blanc [French]; Weißstirn-regenpfeifer [German]; Borrelho-de-testa-branca [Portuguese]

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Charadrius marginatus (White-fronted plover)   

White-fronted plover, Kleinmond, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

 

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is one of the most common birds along the coastline, also occupying Zimbabwe, north-eastern South Africa, patches of Mozambique, northern Botswana and Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip). It generally prefers sandy shores, coastal shores, estuaries and the sandy margins of rivers and lakes, while inland it favours wetlands with extensive mudflats and saline pans.

Distribution of White-fronted plover in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Largely sedentary along the coast, occasionally moving from exposed to sheltered shores in winter. However inland it is migratory, leaving the northern and north-western region of southern Africa in December because of floods, heading to the south-eastern coast, where it stays until May.

Food 

It mainly eats insects and aquatic invertebrates, foraging by day and night using the  typical technique of plovers, running, stopping then searching for prey to pluck from the ground, then repeating the process. It also stands while trembling its feet in the substratum, which disturbs invertebrates for it to catch. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • insects
    • Cheirocephalus (fairy shrimp larvae)
    • gastropods
      • Assiminea
      • Marginella capensis
      • Nucella
    • Tellimya trigona (bivalves)
    • Exosphaeroma (isopods)
    • Cleistostoma edwardsii (crabs)
    • worms

Breeding

  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, defending its territory against neighbouring birds by attacking aerially or by running at the intruder with its head held low.
  • The nest (see image below) is a simple scrape in sand, gravel or shingle, usually unlined but occasionally lined with with pebbles, shell fragments, seaweed or twigs. It is typically placed on the beach just above the high water mark, or alternatively on a dune, riverine sandbank or in a quarry.
Charadrius marginatus (White-fronted plover) Charadrius marginatus (White-fronted plover)

White-fronted plover at its nest, Kenton-on-Sea, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

White-fronted plover at nest. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from September-November in the Western Cape, December-January in Namibia, July-August in KwaZulu-Natal and from July-October inland.
  • It lays 1-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 27-33 days; if an intruder approaches the nest the incubating bird often partially or completely covers the eggs with sand.
  • The young chicks fledge at about 35-38 days old, protected selflessly by their parents, who often feign injury in an attempt to distract a nearby predator.

Threats

Not threatened.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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