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A photo of a Oriental Pratincole (Glareola maldivarum)
Oriental Pratincole

Oriental Pratincole

Glareola maldivarum

The Oriental pratincole, known also as the grasshopper-bird or swallow-plover, is a distinctive wader belonging to the family Glareolidae. This species exhibits a unique combination of features, with short legs, long pointed wings, and a long forked tail, reminiscent of both plovers and swallows.

Identification Tips

When observing the Oriental pratincole, one notes the brown back and head, contrasting with the white belly. The wings are brown with striking black flight feathers, and the underwings reveal a rich chestnut hue. However, these chestnut underwings may appear black unless viewed under optimal conditions. The short bill, an adaptation for aerial feeding, is another characteristic to look for. Distinguishing this species from similar pratincoles, such as the collared pratincole and the black-winged pratincole, requires careful observation as differences can be subtle and not always apparent in the field.

Habitat

The Oriental pratincole is a bird of open country, often found in proximity to water bodies, particularly in the evening when it actively hunts for insects.

Distribution

This species is native to the warmer regions of South and Southeast Asia, with a breeding range that extends from North Pakistan and the Kashmir region across to China and southwest. It is a migratory bird, spending winters in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and parts of Australasia.

Behaviour

The Oriental pratincole is known for its aerial hunting skills, catching insects on the wing in a manner akin to swallows. It can also feed on the ground, showcasing its versatility. In the evening, these birds are frequently seen near water, engaged in their characteristic hawking behavior.

Breeding

The breeding behavior of the Oriental pratincole involves laying 2 to 3 eggs directly on the ground, a simple yet effective strategy for this species.

Vagrancy

While typically found within its known range, the Oriental pratincole has been recorded as a rare vagrant in regions north or west of its breeding areas. Notably, it has been spotted in Great Britain on more than one occasion, with the first record in Suffolk, England in June 1981. An extraordinary sighting occurred on 7 February 2004, when approximately 2.5 million individuals were observed on Eighty Mile Beach in Australia, suggesting that unusual weather conditions may cause large congregations of this species.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Oriental pratincole as Least Concern, indicating that, currently, there are no immediate threats to its population levels that would warrant a higher degree of conservation action.

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