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A photo of a White-fronted Plover (Charadrius marginatus), male
White-fronted Plover, Male

White-fronted Plover

Charadrius marginatus

The White-fronted Plover, or White-fronted Sandplover (Charadrius marginatus), is a diminutive shorebird, tipping the scales at a mere 45-50 grams. This species is a member of the Charadriidae family, characterized by its sandy beaches and dune habitats across sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. With a life expectancy of around 12 years, these birds are known for their monogamous nature and territorial fidelity, often remaining with the same mate and territory across multiple breeding seasons.

Identification Tips

Adult White-fronted Plovers exhibit a distinctive white forecrown and supercilium, contrasted by a dark band across the mid-crown, while the remainder of the crown is a sandy grey. The face is predominantly white, accented with a blackish-brown stripe extending from the eye to the ear coverts. Their upperparts are a light greyish brown, with the tail featuring a mix of black central feathers and white lateral feathers. The underparts are white, sometimes with a chestnut wash on the lower breast and upper belly. The eyes are brown, the bill is black, and the legs range from pale grey to green-grey or pale green/olive. Females are similar to males but may have a less pronounced crown band. Juveniles resemble adult females but lack the crown band entirely and have no black on the head.

Habitat

These plovers favor sandy shores, coastal dunes, estuaries, river and lake shores, intertidal mudflats, or rocky coasts. They are inclined to nest away from the water on open shorelines or amidst dry kelp wrack.

Distribution

The White-fronted Plover is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, with a presence along the entire South African coast and inland near large lakes and rivers.

Behaviour

White-fronted Plovers are monogamous and exhibit strong site fidelity. They can be found in pairs or small flocks, and during the breeding season, larger congregations may form. Courtship displays involve high-stepping movements by males and head-lowering by females. They are territorial, vigorously defending their breeding grounds from intruders with buzzing calls and aerial chases.

Song & Calls

The species communicates with a variety of calls, including a gentle piping "wit, woo-et, twirit, tirit-tirit," and a "pi-peep." Territorial disputes elicit a harsh "chiza-chiza," followed by a "purrr" or squeak. During courtship, adults emit a sharp "krewwwwww," and chicks call "tsick" to attract parental attention.

Breeding

Nesting occurs in small shallow scrapes in the ground, with clutches of one to three eggs. The nests are often unlined, though they may occasionally contain shell fragments or vegetation. Eggs are pale cream with fine dark markings.

Similar Species

The Kentish Plover bears a resemblance to the White-fronted Plover, with a similar white forecrown and dark eye-to-bill bands.

Diet and Feeding

These plovers forage by day and night, employing a run-stop-search technique to capture prey such as insects, crustaceans, and worms. They are also known to use foot-trembling to disturb prey and feed on insects washed ashore.

Conservation status

The White-fronted Plover is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, with a large range and population size that, while decreasing, is not at a rate considered threatening. However, habitat loss and human disturbance pose significant threats to this species.

Threats

Habitat loss due to wetland degradation and destruction is the primary threat to the White-fronted Plover. Coastal erosion, development, and disturbance from tourism and off-road vehicles also contribute to nest loss and population declines.

White-fronted Plover Sounds

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A photo of a Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) , male

Kentish Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus
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