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Species Guide
A photo of a Rock Pratincole (Glareola nuchalis)
Rock Pratincole

Rock Pratincole

Glareola nuchalis

The Rock Pratincole, known scientifically as Glareola nuchalis, is a captivating bird belonging to the Glareolidae family. This avian species is distinguished by its dark gray or brown plumage, adorned with a striking white line that extends from beneath the eye to the back of the neck, forming a collar-like pattern. The wings of this bird are elongated and dark, featuring a conspicuous white patch on the underwing, while the tail is gracefully forked. Observers will note the black bill with a red base, and the coral red legs and eyes that add a splash of color to this bird's appearance.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Rock Pratincole, look for mature adults with their characteristic white collar line beneath the eye, extending to the nape. Their long, dark wings with a white underwing patch, forked tail, and white belly are key features. The bird's bill is black with a red base, and the legs and eyes are a distinctive coral red. Measurements for Glareola nuchalis are as follows: length ranges from 16.5 to 19.5 cm; wing span is between 14.3 and 16.0 cm; the bill measures 10-12 mm; the tail is 5–6 cm long; and the bird weighs between 43 and 52 grams.


The Rock Pratincole is closely associated with rocky embankments along rivers and lakes. Its movements are influenced by local water levels, and it can be found in equatorial regions along the coast of South Africa. These birds migrate in response to flooding and return during drought when rocks become exposed.


This species is divided into two subspecies: G. n. liberiae, the Rufous-collared Pratincole, ranges from Sierra Leone to western Cameroon, while G. n. nuchalis, the White-collared Pratincole, is found from Chad to Ethiopia, extending south to southern Angola and northeast Namibia to western Zambia & Mozambique.


Rock Pratincoles live in flocks of approximately 26 pairs, engaging in morning and evening insect feeding on and around the rocks. They wade in cool waters during the day's heat and may feed during overcast conditions. These birds are also known to perch on hippos, scavenging for insects.

Song & calls

Both sexes of the Rock Pratincole emit a faint whistling contact call and a musical purring. They can become quite vocal and noisy when displaying aggression.


An elaborate courtship display is performed in flight, with wings held high and neck feathers flared to accentuate their collar. They are monogamous, pairing for life, and become territorial during breeding. Breeding occurs during times of drought, with 1–2 eggs laid in a depression on a smooth rock, often surrounded by water. Both parents share incubation duties and cool the eggs with wet feathers.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Rock Pratincole primarily consists of flies, moths, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, and cicadas. They employ aerial attacks to capture their prey.

Conservation status

The Rock Pratincole is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of population decline.

Rock Pratincole Sounds

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Rock Pratincoles on Birda


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