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Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Date: August 18th, 2023

Location: Lhasa, Tibet, China

During my trip to Lhasa, I spotted birds that never had the chance to see in Beijing, especially those adapted to high-altitude regions. In the midst of the Lhasa River, there was a spry and agile bird, constantly on the move, alternating between running and halting as it diligently searched for food.

The Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) is a small and prevalent shorebird that inhabits the shores of saline lakes, lagoons, and coasts across its cosmopolitan range. It is a member of the family Charadriidae. The family comprises small to medium-sized birds, mostly with plumage patterns of solid blacks, gray, browns, and white, and a short bill with a swollen tip. While the Kentish plover has corresponding characteristics, possessing a pale plumage with a white underside, brown back, dark legs, and a dark and short bill. Males and females of the species have subtle differences, specifically with males showcasing dark breast bands and dark head markings.

These resilient birds have established their presence in diverse environments, from sand dunes and marshes to semi-arid deserts and tundras. Their habitat stretches from North Africa to Central Asia, even reaching pockets of Europe. While some populations undertake migrations to winter in Africa, others, such as island populations, remain resident year-round. The Kentish plovers are ground-nesting birds that prefer low, open, moist nesting sites, utilizing shells, pebbles, grass and leaves to craft their nests in small ground scrapes.

As predominantly insectivores, Kentish plovers exhibit a diverse diet, ranging from arthropods to invertebrates, which they diligently hunt using their distinctive run-and-stop method. Kentish plovers are obligate visual foragers, meaning they forage using their sight. They forage by first locating the prey, stopping, or running, and then pecking precisely to catch the prey. They also probe the sand to find prey or catch flies by holding their mouths open. They can forage both individually and in flocks ranging from loose flocks (20-30 birds) to larger flocks with 200 birds or more.

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