|To:||Canberra Birds <>|
|Subject:||Re: Sand Plovers at Lake Wollumboola|
|From:||Harvey Perkins <>|
|Date:||Sat, 31 Jan 2015 11:43:55 +1100|
Well, after quite a bit of email traffic on Birding-aus over the past couple of days, both public and private, the consensus is very clearly that the two birds I photographed at Lake Wollumboola are both Lesser Sand Plovers. Bird #1 came “close” but was still universally considered a Lesser. I asked some of the respondents for additional tips as to why and can summarise as follows.
To a large degree it is the “jizz” of the bird, particularly around the overall proportions and shape of the head, legs and body, but especially, the bill length seems to be key. None of this was new to me, and these are all features identified in the field guides to look for, but clearly I just don’t have the experience with these birds to ‘get it’ just yet.
Some of the comments included:
“I find it's immediately a 'jizz' thing. Greaters just look so long-legged they look awkward. The tibia is very long which elevates the body way up off the knees. They look as if they're about to topple forwards. The bill is important too. A Greater has a bill that is much longer and thicker than a Lesser and if stuck onto the side of the head of the bird (ouch) would probably reach behind the eye.”
“The bills of your birds look very much on the short side for Greater, and also relatively bulbous- and blunt-tipped which is better for Lesser. Similarly, the overall shape and proportions are much 'nicer', whereas Greaters tend to look more gangly with oversized heads and bills. That said, there is significant variation in both species, and birds with more intermediate features can be extremely challenging to assign to species”
So it seems there will be some individuals, at either end of a scale, that will fit neatly into clear-cut ‘identifiability’ as one or the other. The photo on my blog of the Lesser Sand Plover from Northwest Island is one of these. But I suspect a large number of birds, if not the majority, will fall instead within the range of ‘confusability’ for a large number, if not the majority, of people. I take some comfort from the statement in the NPIAW – The Shorebirds of Australia which states that, “Identification is therefore far from easy, even for experts, especially as individual birds may be at different stages of their moult”.
It’s probably worth keeping in mind the maxim that: “if there’s any doubt, then it’s a Lesser”.
So, As foreshadowed in my initial email to Birding-aus, I have ended up slightly embarrassed (and my credibility as a wader watcher and birdwatcher more generally must be well and truly shot!), but it has been worth it for the feedback it triggered and the better understanding I now have. Thanks to all.
I’ve updated my blog post with this text as a Postscript.
On 28 January 2015 at 20:15, Harvey Perkins <> wrote:
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