Double-banded Plover ID; some personal comments. Part 2.

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Subject: Double-banded Plover ID; some personal comments. Part 2.
From: "Robert Inglis" <>
Date: Mon, 6 May 2002 16:47:04 +1000
Hello dedicated Part-2-ers,

Following on from Part 1 of my reaction to the recent discussion between Jill
Denning and Trevor Ford re identifying Double-banded Plovers:

Below is a summary of my personal comments on the illustrations/photos in the
various identification sources mentioned in Part 1.
(please note: all sources except one are Australian publications; the exception
is a field guide from New Zealand.)

Field guides (illustrated):
1/ (a) "Pizzey and Knight" (1997)
(This is currently my favourite Australian field guide but that does not mean I
think it is perfect.)
Neat illustrations but little real detail such as pale edges to feathers.
Depictions of 'breeding' (obviously male but no male symbol), 'non-breeding' ,
and immature.
No indication of male or female birds; no illustration of juvenile.
Non-breeding bird shown with two full bands; the chest band appears to have some
rufous colour.
    (b) "Pizzey and Doyle" (1980)
(Hailed as a real breakthrough in Australian field guides when first published;
detailed text, much of which migrated to the field guide immediately above.)
The illustrations in this publications were a real disappointment due to the
poor quality of the printing, particularly the colours.
Only 'breeding' and 'non-breeding' depicted without male/female symbols.
The 'non-breeding' illustration is really of no use due to colour problems and
poorly depicted band details.

2/ "Simpson and Day" (1996)
Depictions of: 'breeding' (male only), non-breeding standing and in flight.
No immature, juvenile or breeding female.
Illustrations lacking in detail.
Non-breeding has part upper band with no indication of lower band.

3/ (a) "Slater" (1989)
'Breeding' (male only), non-breeding, immature, juvenile, in flight (probably
breeding male).
Non-breeding appears to have almost complete upper band; imm has both bands
complete; juv has part upper band only.
Some detail on feathers and supercilium.
All birds lack any yellowish-buff coloring on the head.
    (b) "Slater, Non-passerines" 1970.
(This was my first Australian field guide; fortunately I did not have to
with "Cayley").
Colour depictions only of 'breeding' (male) and 'non-breeding' with black and
white illustrations of the same birds in flight.
Non-breeding has apparently full upper band and no trace of lower band.
No indication of yellow-ish buff on head of either bird.

4/ "Morecombe" 2000.
Breeding male and female, non-breeding and in-flight non-breeding (?) depicted.
No immature or juvenile shown.
Unlike the other field guides there are some ID notes directly associated with
the illustrations.
For example, the non-breeding illustration shows a complete upper band but the
note says that the band is sometimes broken; the lower band is indicated as "a
brown smudge on each side".
Although this field guide has some useful new features it appears that the
publishers used a 'non-standard' colour chart in the printing.

5/ "Storr and Johnstone" (1979)
(Field Guide to The Birds of Western Australia)
One illustration only, probably intended to depict 'non-breeding'.
Shows two broken bands.

6/ "Falla, Sibson, Turbott" (1981)
(The New Guide to the Birds of New Zealand)
Obviously not the best New Zealand field guide; I probably bought it for its
size and price.
Illustrations for 'summer' (male breeding?), 'winter' (non-breeding adult?) and
Full upper band and no trace of lower band shown on 'winter'; 'imm' has broken
upper band only.
The bills on these illustrations not well depicted.

Photographic Field Guide:
"Reader's Digest Photographic Field Guide, Birds Of Australia" (1994).
Photos of 'adult breeding' (female?) and 'non-breeding' only.
The photo of 'non-breeding' shows what appears to me to be a broken upper band
with faint signs of lower band.
Colours seem reasonable.

Illustrated Identification Guides:
1/ "Hayman, Marchant and Prater" (1986).
(This is the bible: "Shorebirds".)
Illustrations for: 'breeding male', 'breeding female', 'adult non-breeding',
'juvenile', flight above and below.
No illustration for 'immature'.
'Non-breeding' shows two full bands.
Colours seem good.

2/ Brett Lane's "Shorebirds in Australia" (1987).
'Adult breeding' (male?), 'adult non-breeding', and 'juvenile' illustrated.
'Non-breeding' and 'juvenile' appear to be almost identical.
Note: These illustrations were by Jeff Davies who also illustrated the same bird
in HANZAB (see below).

Photographic Books:
1/ "Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds" (1982).
One photo only of an unclassified bird 'tending its chick'.
This bird is not in breeding plumage and shows a complete upper band with a
faint-ish lower band.
Supercilium is indistinct.
A very strange photo.

2/ "The National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Shorebirds" (1987).
This volume is one of the best of the series and is worthwhile having in your
Excellent photos of 'male breeding', 'non-breeding' (Moreton Bay 1984), and
'juvenile' (Caloundra 1976) with an interesting photo of a bird 'coming into
breeding plumage'.

"Australia's Birds, Seashores"
Geo Wildlife Documentaries.
This video only shows 'adult breeding' (probably only the female).
This seems to me to be odd considering that in Australia most birds seen would
not be in breeding plumage.

This is supposed to be the best Australian reference and should have the latest
Interestingly, Jeff Davies illustrations differ markedly from those of his in
the publication mentioned above: Brett Lane's "Shorebirds in Australia".
Those in HANZAB are far more detailed and varied making them far more 'useable'.
Illustrations for 'breeding male', 'breeding female', 'adult non-breeding',
'juvenile', 'non-breeding' in flight above and below.
No illustration for 'immature' although described in the text along with other
plumage morphs and phases.
'Gold morph' described in text but not illustrated.

Final comments:
The Double-banded Plover belongs to a 'group' of birds that goes through a
variety of plumages during the year and its lifetime.
This can cause difficulties with identification.
Some people can cope with this better than others for a variety of reasons.
But generally speaking the answer is practice and a combination of good field
guides and other identification books.
HANZAB is expensive and not necessarily perfect.
It is definitely not a book for the field but Volume 2 is a 'must-have' for keen
shorebird watchers.
The currently available Australian field guides have many faults and
However, they are not really intended to be a complete source of information on
every aspect of every bird in Australia.
They should be treated as a quick and easy to use starting point in the
identification of birds.
Which one is the best depends on the user's 'taste' in illustrations.
They should be used in combination with 'specialist' identification guides such
as "Shorebirds" mentioned above.

Photos can be a valuable ID aid for many people but it should be remembered that
colours can vary due to differences in film used and the
differences in the quality of the light when the photo is taken.
Time of day and degree of cloud cover can cause dramatic variations in colour in
the subject.
The expertise of the printer/publisher also has a bearing on the final result.

For those with the time it would be worthwhile doing a search on the internet on
"Double-banded Plover".
Although this may turn up some interesting pictures, I personally don't have the
I will 'struggle along' with my current set of guides and books.

Good luck,
Bob Inglis
Woody Point

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