phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder ▲ family


Pratincoles (PRAT-un-kohlz) and coursers vary in size from 6.7 to 11.4 inches (17 to 29 centimeters) in length and 1.3 to 6.1 ounces (37 to 172 grams) in weight. Pratincoles generally have slender bodies, long wings, and short legs. They also have beaks that open wide, which helps them catch insects while flying. One pratincole, the Australian pratincole, has very long legs, however. The coursers, on the other hand, tend to have stockier bodies, shorter wings, and very long legs. Coursers are also characterized by a square tail.


Pratincoles and coursers are found in portions of Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.


Most pratincoles live near water, with many species preferring areas along large rivers. Pratincoles of Europe and Asia generally occur in grassland or desert habitats near water. The Egyptian plover occupies sandbars along tropical African rivers. Coursers occupy dry habitats of various types, including extreme desert.


All pratincoles and coursers eat primarily insects. Coursers will sometimes also eat other invertebrates, animals without a backbone, such as mollusks, as well as seeds. Pratincoles catch their insect prey "on the wing," that is, in the air while flying. Sometimes they search for insects on the ground as well.

Coursers, on the other hand, find food exclusively on the ground, pecking at food items with their bills. Some coursers have bills that curve downward, and use these bills to dig through soft sand or mud for insects and seeds.

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