Charadrius pecuariusKittlitz's plover(Also: Kittlitz's sand plover)

Last updated:

Geographic Range

Kittlitz's sand plovers are common in much of the non-forested areas of sub-Saharan Africa. They also occur north along the Nile River to the Nile River Delta and on Madagascar. (Johnsgard, 1981; Soothill and Soothill, 1982)

Habitat

Kittlitz's sand plovers are found in inland and coastal areas of their range. Favored inland habitats are sand banks, mud flats, and grasslands and low scrub, although areas with sparse vegetation are highly preferred. Offshore islands and tidal plains are also commonly occupied. (Johnsgard, 1981; Soothill and Soothill, 1982)

Physical Description

Kittlitz's sand plovers are small, compact plovers. Both males and females have white heads with a distinctive black line down the side of the neck, which is commonly used in identifying Charadrius pecuarius from other Charadrius species. The crown feathers are brown with sandy tones mixed in. The body plumage is primarily sandy brown with some black edging, giving it a somewhat mottled appearance. The tail feathers are white except the central two, which are black. Females closely resemble males, except that the band on the front of the crown is narrower and may be brown in females. Juveniles have no black or white on the head. (Cramp and Simmons, 1983; Johnsgard, 1981)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range mass
    19 to 49 g
    0.67 to 1.73 oz
  • Range length
    12 to 14 cm
    4.72 to 5.51 in
  • Range wingspan
    96 to 107 mm
    3.78 to 4.21 in

Reproduction

Pair formation in Kittlitz's sand plovers takes place in their flocks. Birds chase each other during this period with feathers puffed out while making buzzing noises. They often make several scrape nests during pairing. Copulation tends to take place at the scrape nest in which the female will eventually lay her eggs. Copulation activities seems to be typical of other Charadrius species, with the male holding the female's neck and then falling off after copulation. (Cramp and Simmons, 1983; Johnsgard, 1981)

Kittlitz's sand plovers breed and lay eggs throughout the year with peak seasons varying regionally. In East Africa breeding occurs mainly from April to May, in South Africa breeding is from August to November. The nest is a shallow scrape about 12 cm in diameter. Sometimes the nest is lined with sand, pebbles, pieces of grass, or dung. Typically two eggs are laid which are incubated by both parents. Eggs hatch in about 25 days and the young leave the nest site as soon as they are dry. The young stay near their parents, with fledging taking place in about 25 days. After fledgling the young are independent. (Cramp and Simmons, 1983; Johnsgard, 1981)

  • Breeding interval
    Kittlitz's sand plover breeding intervals are not reported.
  • Breeding season
    Kittlitz's sand plovers can breed throughout the year, although breeding is concentrated in seasonally. Peak breeding seasons vary geographically.
  • Average eggs per season
    2
  • Range time to hatching
    23 to 27 days
  • Range fledging age
    25 (low) days
  • Average fledging age
    30 days
  • Average time to independence
    42 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Soon after hatching parents lead their young to a feeding site. If threatened, parents typically perform a "broken wing display", common in Charadrius species to distract a predator from young. This display involves feigning a broken wing and making alarm noises. When the predator nears the parent and is away from the young, the parent will simply fly away. Parents communicate warnings to young fledglings. Some aggressive behavior has been exhibited toward other species that approach young or nests, particularly in captivity. Parents typically cover eggs with sand or loose material if a predator approaches the nest. Males and females share incubation, with females typically sitting on the eggs during the day and males at night. (Cramp and Simmons, 1983; Johnsgard, 1981)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of Kittlitz's sand plovers is not reported in the literature.

Behavior

Flocking is typical in Kittlitz's sand plovers throughout the year. They are typically found in large flocks and are not generally found in mixed flocks with other species. Kittlitz's sand plovers tend to nest close to each other and do not show any sign of obvious aggression toward neighbors. There are reports from captive situation that suggest a pair of birds will try to dominate a nesting area in crowded conditions. (Cramp and Simmons, 1983; Johnsgard, 1981)

Communication and Perception

Kittlitz's sand plovers are considered quiet plovers, as they typically only vocalize when disturbed or in flight. The general contact call, which is usually made in flight, is a plaintive "tee peep." In an alarm situation these birds emit a shrill "peet." Buzzing and chattering noises are sometimes made when pursuing mates or showing aggressive behavior to other birds. Hatchlings make a "cheep-cheep" noise. (Cramp and Simmons, 1983)

Kittlitz's sand plovers primarily use vision to hunt and search for food. (Johnsgard, 1981)

Food Habits

Kittlitz's sand plovers eat mainly terrestrial insects and spiders. They feed mainly in the early morning hours until just before mid-day. Some of the insects recorded from their stomachs include Coleoptera, Diptera, Hemiptera, Orthoptera, and Hymenoptera. These birds also occasionally take small molluscs and worms when available. (Cramp and Simmons, 1983)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms

Predation

Predators of Kittlitz's sand plovers are mainly predatory birds such as Falco biarmicus. Both hatchlings and adults are cryptically colored. Hatchlings generally try to hide among sticks and stones and remain still to avoid detection from predators. When sitting on the nest these birds keep an eye pointed toward the sky. If a threat is detected, they cover the eggs with sand and move toward a water edge. Very rarely will they move the eggs to a new site. Parents with young use a broken-wing display to distract predators from their young. Breeding adults may also mob predators, such as a pair that were reported attacking a marsh owl (Asio capensis) that was near a nest scrape. (Cramp and Simmons, 1983; Cramp and Simmons, 1983)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Kittlitz's sand plovers impact populations of their insect prey throughout their range in Africa. They are also prey for raptors. (Cramp and Simmons, 1983)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Kittlitz's sand plovers may impact the populations of insect pests where they occur.

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Kittlitz's sand plovers on humans.

Conservation Status

This species has a large range and a stable population. The IUCN lists this plover as least concern.

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Michael Rotter (author), Northern Michigan University, Alec R. Lindsay (editor, instructor), Northern Michigan University.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

coastal

the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

cryptic

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

estuarine

an area where a freshwater river meets the ocean and tidal influences result in fluctuations in salinity.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

Cramp, S., K. Simmons. 1983. Handbook of the Birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic Volume III Wader to Gulls. New York: Oxford University Press.

Johnsgard, P. 1981. The Plovers, Sandpipers, and Snipes of the World. Lincoln Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

Soothill, E., R. Soothill. 1982. Wading Birds of the World. Dorset: Blandford Press.