Recently I asked for opinions on the identification of a small plover observed
at Bribie Island, SE Queensland, on 29/8/2001.
(It was actually 27/08/01 but never mind.)
A number of people took up the challenge, thankyou very much.
The general opinion was that it is a Red-capped Plover in non-adult plumage.
The original observers are, I believe, now in agreement with that identification
Generally speaking, this species should be fairly easy to identify; it is
endemic to Australia and is often seen on the beach and around inland lakes,
Australian birdwatchers should, therefore, quickly become familiar with this
However, familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes.
In this particular case, the observers were struck by the very long legs, the
upright stance of the bird and the almost complete lack of any rufous on the
A discussion about the length of the legs ensued which encouraged me to consult
my personal bird-book library.
As a result, I believe that most of the field guides and some other
publications are lacking or misleading in this feature.
I have detailed my comments on this below.
As an aid to these comments I have created a couple of web-pages containing a
collection of images of the Bribie Plover along with images of Red-capped
Plovers and a Double-banded Plover from my personal slide collection.
This is at http://www.powerup.com.au/~inglisrc/buckleys270801.htm
Adult plumaged Red-capped Plovers (especially males) should be unmistakable,
however, in other stages of plumage there could be some confusion according to a
number of written sources.
The list quoted includes:
and even Red-necked Stint.
To detail the differences between these species would be too much for this
Instead, I would suggest referring to the following publications:
The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (HANZAB), Vol 2 (Vol
3 for Red-necked Stint);
Shorebirds by Hayman, Marchant and Prater;
The four Australian field guides;
I make the following comments on the above publications:
HANZAB should be a prime source of accurate information, however, in the case
of the Red-capped Plover I feel that the illustrations show birds with legs
rather shorter than they often appear in the field.
Of the four field guides, 'Morcombe' is the only one that mentions the long
legs; HANZAB also mentions this feature in the introductory paragraph to this
In 'Simpson and Day' the illustrations, in fact, do not even show the legs.
'Slater', although the oldest of the four field guides, probably has the best
An interesting point is that there appears to be little difference in plumage
between adult breeding and non-breeding birds.
Birds that differ markedly from 'adult-breeding' are probably immatures or
'Shorebirds' would be the best reference in this case; it has good illustrations
and text as well as detailed information on the Kentish Plover and the other
It is also worth noting another possible plover: Malaysian Plover. It seems to
me that species is just as likely to turn up in Australia as the Kentish Plover.
Kentish Plover has been reported a couple of times but no record has been
'officially' accepted yet.
Further notes accompany the images on the web-pages mentioned above.
Please note that the contents of this e-mail are my own opinions which have been
formed from my own observations and interpretations of the texts mentioned.
These opinions are not meant to be absolute or definitive; I recognise the
rights of other people to have different opinions on this subject.
I welcome genuine criticism and/or comment on what I have presented here.
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