Birds of the World






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Charadriiformes / Charadrii - Oystercatchers, Stilts, etc.
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Shorebirds, Charadriiformes
Pterocli - Sandgrouse
Charadrii - Shorebirds
Families: Seedsnipe, Plains-wanderer, Thick-knees, Plovers and Lapwings, Oystercatchers,
    IbisbillStilts and Avocets, Painted Snipe, Jacanas, Magellanic Plover, Sheathbills,
    Sandpipers, Phalaropes
Lari - Gulls, Terns, Skimmers
Families: Crab Plovers, Pratiincoles and Coursers, Jaegers and Skuas, Gulls, Terns, Skimmers
Alcae - Auks
Families: Auks
Pacific Golden-Plover, Southern Lapwing, Blackish Oystercatcher,
American Black Oystercatcher
, Silver Gull, Western Gull, Heermann's Gull, Lava Gull, Swallow-tailed Gull, Kelp Gull, Dolphin Gull, South American Tern
Sanderling, Willet, Piping and Semipalmated Plovers,
Masked, Southern, Red-wattled, and Northern Lapwings
, White-tailed Plover,
Eurasian, Blackish, and American Black Oystercatchers, Pied Stilt,
Northern and Wattled Jacanas, Snowy SheathbillWillet, Sanderling, Western Sandpiper,
Red Phalarope, Alaskan shorebirds, Laughing Gull, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer,
South Polar Skua
, Bonaparte's Gull, Fairy Tern, Black Skimmer,
Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Klittliz's Murrelet, Black Guillemot, and Tufted Puffin
  Family Haematopodidae - Oystercatchers
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  11 species in 1 genus. (Haemotopus). Widely distributed in coastal regions worldwide except for polar areas and portions of tropical Africa and south east Asia. The Eurasian Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus, breeds inland in central Eurasia and the South Island Pied Oystercatcher, H. finschi, breeds inland on South Island, New Zealand. Oystercatchers are placed in a subfamily of the Charadriidae by Sibley and Monroe (1990).
   Oystercatchers are relatively large shorebirds with a long, colorful, compressed bill with a chisel-like tip. They are sturdy with a thick neck, relatively large head, a long, dagger-like red-orange bill. The eye and eye ring are red or yellow in 3 species. The wings are long and pointed and the tail is square. The legs are stout, the tarsus is covered with small hexagonal scales, and there is no hallux. The webbing between the toes is reduced and their toes are large, short, and thick. There are transverse scutella on the distal half of their toes. Their plumage is black (5 species) or pied (one species, the Variable Oystercatcher of New Zealand, H. unicolor, has both a black and a pied morph). Females tend to have longer bills and are more massive (heavier) than males. Their pelvic muscles are ABXY+.
   Oystercatchers are territorial and may spend much of the year in pairs. Some form loose flocks in winter. They are found on shores and estuaries. In the interior (Europe and Russia), the Eurasian Oysgercatcher, H. ostralegus, is found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and agricultural areas (below). In the southern Chile, the Magellanic Oystercatcher, H. leucopodus, feeds on upland grasslands and along the edges of freshwater lakes and pools. They eat shellfish (limpets), especially bivalves (mussels). [They eat bivalves, gastropods, polychaete worms, limpets, mussels, and chitons as well as echinoderms, fish, and crabs.] They insert their flat bill between the valves (shells) of a feeding mussel or clam and cut the adductor muscles, opening the shells to feed. They may also hammer on the shell and break it open. In American Oystercatchers, individuals may specialize on one or the other method. Species with more pointed bills probe for worms and other invertebrates. Young stay with their parents for a protracted period while they learn how to feed.
   Birds breeding Inland move to the coast in winter. Only the Eurasian Oystercatcher is truly migratory, moving from more northern parts of its range in winter. Birds breeding on Iceland fly to the United Kingdom in a single 500 mile long flight.
   Oystercatchers have a variety of piping calls which we hear on Seabrook. They have a territorial display with calls while bowing or while flying deliberately ("butterfly" flight). They are monogamous. and have strong fidelity to nest site and mate. They nest on the ground above high tide. The nest is a simple scrape and they lay 2-3 (1-4) eggs. Both parents incubate for 24-35 days but females do more of the  incubating while males are more involved in territory defense. Chicks leave the nest within a day and fly at 28-35 days. However, parents show their precocial young food for several weeks and then remain with them as they learn to eat - often through the first winter.
Eurasian Oystercatcher
Blackish Oystercatcher
American Black Oystercatcher
Eurasian Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus. This Old World species is distributed widely in western Europe and Russia, Siberia, and from Kamchatka to northern China. It is also known as the Common Pied Oystercatcher.
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Blackish Oystercatcher, Haematopus ater.
Patagonia, Chile. The legs are paler than those of the American Black Oystercatcher.
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American Black Oystercatcher, Haematopus bachmani. Western North America.
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  Family Ibidorhynchidae - Ibisbill
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  1species, 1 genus (Ibidorhyncha struthersii). Found in rocky mountain streams and rivers of Central Asia. Included with Recurvirostridae by Sibley and Monroe (1990). Listed as a separate family by Clements (2007), DIckinson (2003), and Harris (2009).
   The Ibisbill is medium-sized and robust. Sexes are similar but females mayby slightly larger. They are grey with a white belly and they have a black face and crown and a black breast band. They have red legs and a long decurved bill. In flight, they hold the head and neck straight like and ibis but their flight is slow, like that of oystercatchers. Their wings have white patches at the base of their primaries seen only during flight.
   Ibisbills ocur along mountain streams and rocky floodplains. They feed by probing under rocks in stream beds where they find aquatic invertebrates (caddisfly and mayfly larvae) and small fish. They also eat insects taken on land. They occur in pairs or small groups. They are usually quiet when not breeding.
   They are monogamous and  territorial. They perform circling displays. They lay 4 eggs in a scrape lined with pebbles - located on a bank or peninsula on the river. Parents share incubation. They young can fly at 45-50 days. Adults may use an injury-feigning distraction display to protect their chicks.
  Family Recurvirostridae - Stilts
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       and Avocets
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  7 (10) species, 3 genera. Worldwide except polar and northern temperate areas. Sibley and Monroe (1990) also includes the Ibisbill (above) in this family - 10 species, 3 genera without the Ibisbill. Dickenson (2003) and Harris (2009) list 7 species in 3 genera along with a separate monotypic family for the Ibisbill, Ibidorhyncha struthersii. These species are grouped with as a subfamily of the Charadriidae by Sibley and Monroe (1990).
   These are very long legged-long-necked, really long-billed birds of medium size. Stilts have straight bills and avocets upturned bills. The bills of avocets and the Banded Stilt, Cladorhynchus leucocephalus, flatten toward the tip with lamellae inside. They use these comb-like structures with a broad, flat tongue in filter feeding. They have long wings and a short tail. All stilts have reddish-orange legs and avocets have gray legs and feet. The toes may be partially webbed (stilts) and fully webbed (avocets). The hallux is small or absent. The tarsus is reticulate. The ventral plumage is dense and several species are pied (black and white). Sexes are alike.
   These are gregarious, strong flying birds of open wetlands and shallow lagoons  (fresh-water), and estuaries ( the Andean Avocet, Recurvirostra andina, is resident on saline lakes at higher elevations - above 5,0000 m). Both avocets and stilts wade in shallow water and swim readily. Stilts probe in the mud for food, avocets sweep the water with their bill straining out small organisms. Stilts feed visually but avocets find their food by touch. Stilts eat mostly small mollusks. crustaceans, fish, insect larvae and worms - with an occasional seed tossed in. Avocets feed on small crustaceans. Both catch flying insects.
   They have a variety of contact and alarm calls and are relatively vocal when defending young. More northern populations are migratory.
   Most species are at least loosely colonial. All are monogamous (Black Stilts, Himantopus novaezelandiae, may pair for life - in others the pair bond is usually seasonal). They often nest in loose colonies on flats near water. Some reuse the same area, others move between seasons. The nest may be a simple depression or a built-up mound (especially where flooding is likely), lined with vegetation. They usually lay 3-4 eggs. Both parents incubate (19-28 days) and care for the precocial downy chicks. Young feed themselves within hours after hatching and leaving the nest and become independent in 2-3 weeks (to several months). Young Banded Stilts, Cladorhynchus leucocephalus, gather in crèches after hatching.
Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged (Pied) Stilts, Himantopus himantopus, are another "pied" species. They are similar to the Black-necked Stilt but in the Black-necked Stilts, the black of the crown extends down the neck , the sides of the neck, and joins the upper mantle. Black-winged Stilts are resident from tropical Africa south, through India and Southeast Asia, Papua-New Guinea, and much of Australia. They may also be found breeding in south central Asia west to western Europe and Spain. Bird World. Kuranda, Australia (left).

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Black-winged Stilt

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Santuary, Dubai UAE
Photo by Ed Konrad

  Family Rostraluidae - Painted Snipe
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  2 (3) species and 1 (2) genera (Rostratula, Nycticryphes). Pantropical - Africa, southern Asia, and Australia, and southern South America. Jacanas are probably their closest relatives.
   These are relatively small, short-legged, long-billed wading birds similar to true snipes but more brightly colored. They have large, forward-pointing eyes and a long, drooping bill. They have slender toes, and short, rounded wings. Painted Snipe are sexually dichromatic (females are larger and more colorful than males). They have a crop-like enlargement in the esophagus. There are 14 tail feathers.
  Painted Snipe are solitary or loosely social. They inhabit reedy swamps and marshes, usually in lowlands. Non-breeding birds are usually solitary. They are crepuscular (active early and late in the day) or even nocturnal. They roost in tall vegetation in swampy areas during the day. They forage in shallow water and soft mud feeding on aquatic insects and other invertebrates plus grass seeds and rice. They are relatively silent in non-breeding periods. Most populations are migratory - some are nomadic.
   The Lesser Painted Snipe, Nycticryptes semicollaris, of South America is monogamous. The Rostratula species are polyandrous. Females court males and mate with 2 or more males in succession (serial polyandry). They lay 2-4 eggs in a shallow scrape. Males incubate the eggs and care for the young. Chicks fledge in a few days and follow the male, learning to forage for themselves.
    Family Jacanidae - Jacanas
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    8 species in 6 genera. Pantropical - tropics and subtropics of Africa, Asia, Australia, New Guinea, and from Mexico to Argentina in the New World. Also known as "Lilytrotters."
   Small to medium-sized birds with long legs and elongate, spidery toes that enable them to walk on floating vegetation. Most species are brightly and contrastingly colored. The female is usually larger than the male but their plumage is similar. All but one species have a frontal shield or facial wattle. Their nostrils are schizorhinal. Pelvic muscles are ABXY+. Their caeca are small. Some have a carpal spur. Jacanas have 10 rectrices and three species have a metatarsal spur.
   They live in shallow freshwater wetlands, reedbeds, swamps, and deeper areas with surface cover. They may also be found in nearby fields. They usually forage in/on aquatic vegetation (often in association with larger animals - African Jacanas, Actophilornis africanus, use hippos as lookout perches). The eat aquatic insects, snails, crustaceans, and small fish. Most species are sedentary but the Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Hydrophasianus chirurgus, breeds in the Himalayas and China and moves south to India and southeast Asia for the winter.
   Jacanas are vocal during breeding.
   In all species except the Lesser Jacana, Microparra capensis, jacanas are polyandrous (the female may have several males, laying eggs in separate nests for each of her mates who rear the young). The nest is a platform near the waterline or on a small island. The male incubates 4 eggs for 22-28 days. In several species, the male carries the young under his wings with the chicks' legs and feet dangling.
   The Northern Jacana, Jacana spinosa, ranging from Mexico to Panama, is our closest representative.
Northern Jacana


Wattled Jacana
A jacana, DisneyWorld, Orlando, FL.
Probably a young Northern Jacana,
Jacana spinosa
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Wattled Jacana, Jacana jacana
Agricultural Station, Valencia, Trinidad
Photo by Ed Konrad
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    Family Pluvianellidae - Magellanic Plover
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    1 species, 1 genus (Pluvianellus socialis). Southern South America. Usually placed with the Charadriidae but behavioral land genetic evidence now indicates that it is closer to the sheathbills (Chionididae) and belongs to a separate monotypic family. Clements (2007) places this species in a separate family. Dickinson (2003) includes it as a subfamily with the Sheathbills (Subfamily Pluvianellinae). Sibley and Monroe (1990) retain it in its original position within the Family Charadriidae. Harris (2009) places it as a subfamily in the Chionididae.
   A rare wader from South America. The back, throat, and breast are pale gray and the remaining underparts are white. It has short red legs, a black bill and red eyes in the adult. It behaves much like a turnstone, foraging along edges or under pebbles and debris. It breeds near water (saline lakes, rivers). Both parents defend territory and share in incubation. They lay 2 large eggs (only one usually survives) in a scrape on the ground. Chicks are fed regurgitated food stored in the crop (the only wader that does this). They feed on small invertebrates found on the ground or under pebbles. They collect worms in their bill like puffins.
    Family Chionididae - Sheathbills
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    2 (3) species in 1 (2) genera (Chionis). Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands and southern South America. Harris (2009) includes the Magellanic Plover (above) as a subfamily of the sheathbills.
   They are medium-sized with strong, thick, white plumage. These pigeon-like birds are scavengers, often found in association with penguins. They are 14-16 inches in length and males are larger than females. The head is small. The bill is short and stout with a horny, saddle-shaped horny sheath encircling the base of the maxilla. They have holorhinal nares which are pervious. The face is pinkish or black. Their neck is short, the body is plumb. and their feet are robust. There are no webs between their toes, the tarsus is reticulate, and they have a carpal spur. They have large supraorbital glands. Their pelvic muscles are ABXY+. They have 15 cervical vertebrae, and long caeca. They have 12 rectrices. .
   Sheathbills are usually colonial, congregating at penguin or other seabird colonies or around other shore animals. They work together, often in pairs, to harass and rob their hosts. On occasion, they forage alone amid windrows of seaweed or other derbies. They are basically scavengers of intertidal and shore areas. They eat carrion and fish scraps and will steal young and eggs. They eat blubber and hides of rotting seal carcasses. They gather around birthing seals and eat the placentas, feces, blood, and dead or dying pups. They also feed on marine algae.
   They are largely silent outside the breeding season. They are sedentary. The Snowy (Pale-faced) Sheathbill or Paddy, Chionis albus, is Antarctica's only permanent resident bird.
   Sheathbills build a nest of feathers, algae, bones, and grass in a crevice or under rocks. They lay 2-3 eggs in December. Chicks hatch mid-January and young fledge by the end of March. They time their breeding to that of the local penguins - producing young when food (eggs, chicks) becomes available.
Snowy Sheathbill
Snowy Sheathbill, Chionis albus (left).
Sheathbill harassing Adelie Penguin
and chick (right).
Both pictures courtesy Anna Kate Hein.
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Sheathbill and Adelie
    Banner - American Oystercatchers. Kiawah River.