Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Egyptian Plover

Egyptian Plover at the Milwaukee County Zoo
The Egyptian Plovers have long been one of my favorite birds at the Milwaukee Zoo, but before I got my new camera I could never get good shots of the enclosure. Well my photo drought has ended!

I'm drawn to this little bird by its small size and striking, contrasting colors. What a looker! This, and their nesting habit (which we will get to later) make them a very distinctive shorebird.

Egyptian Plovers can be found living near sandy riverbeds throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They are sometimes called "Crocodiles Birds" due to a 5th century BCE account by Herodotus stating that they pick food from between a Crocodiles teeth. The story has persisted, but there is no actual proof that the birds engage in this risky feeding behavior.

In reality, Egyptian Plovers feed on insects, seeds, and the occasional mollusk. They tend to remain sedentary, and breeding pairs will aggressively defend their territory. These couples will produce 2-3 eggs at a time which they bury them in the sand! Burying the eggs helps to keep them warm, and also helps to protect them from the eyes of hungry predators. But sometimes the eggs get too hot, so in order to cool them down the parents will wet their feathers and use the water to chill the eggs. Baby Plovers leave their "nests" when they are only a day old, though they will stick around their parents for about a month.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Sub-Saharan Africa
Size : Length up to 8in (20cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Pluvianidae -- Genus : Pluvianus -- Species : P. aegyptius

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