Sand Plovers at Lake Wollumboola

To: Harvey Perkins <>
Subject: Sand Plovers at Lake Wollumboola
From: Neil Shelley <>
Date: Sun, 1 Feb 2015 12:03:29 +1100

Here are some summarised measurement data that was published in Stilt some
years ago (I can provide the exact references if anyone needs them):

   - *Lesser Sand Plover*
      - Bill 16.9mm
      - Head 28.8mm
      - Bill/Head ratio 0.59
   - *Greater Sand Plover*
      - Bill 23.8mm
      - Head 30.8mm
      - Bill/Head ratio 0.77

As you can see from the above, the Lesser Sand Plover has the shorter bill
and the species have similar size heads.  This leads to the overall
impression that the Lesser Sand Plover's bill is ~½ the size of its head &
the Greater Sand Plover's bill is ~¾.

I hope this helps.

*Neil Shelley*

On 31 January 2015 at 11:43, Harvey Perkins <> wrote:

> 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
> – 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.
> Cheers,
> Harvey
> On 28 January 2015 at 20:15, Harvey Perkins <> wrote:
> > With the spate of twitching of the White-rumped Sandpiper at Lake
> > Wollumboola over the past three weeks, there have been quite a few
> reports
> > of Lesser Sand Plovers there as well.
> >
> > After I posted on my blog about my trip there, I had an email from
> another
> > Birding-auser who thought the sand plovers he had seen were Greaters, not
> > Lessers. That crystalised a niggling doubt I had, so I had a closer look
> at
> > my photos. I've now put up a second post with these photos and conclude
> > that all the sand plovers I saw were in fact Greaters. At the risk of
> > potential embarrassment, I'd love to hear from anyone who'd like to
> either
> > confirm or shoot down my diagnosis...
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > cheers,
> >
> > Harvey
> > Canberra
> >
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