Stiltia isabella

Physical characteristics: The Australian pratincole varies between 7.5 and 8.7 inches (19 to 22 centimeters) in length and weighs about 2.3 ounces (65 grams). It is light brown in color across most of its body, but has a dark brown upper belly and white lower belly. The bill has a bright red base and black tip. The Australian pratincole has a slender body, long legs, and extremely long wings.

Geographic range: The Australian pratincole is found in most of inland and northern Australia, as well as portions of New Guinea and eastern Indonesia.

Habitat: The Australian pratincole is found on short-grass plains, usually near water.

Diet: The Australian pratincole primarily eats insects. It catches these either while flying or on the ground. When pursuing prey on the ground, it may use a wing to keep insects from escaping. Australian pratincoles may also eat seeds.

Behavior and reproduction: The Australian pratincole is sometimes found alone, but is more frequently seen in flocks. Individuals are able to run quickly. They are usually silent in breeding colonies, but make considerable noise while migrating.

Australian pratincoles and people: The Australian pratincole is sometimes hunted for food in Indonesia.

Conservation status: The Australian pratincole is fairly common across its range and is not considered threatened. ■



del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3, Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1996.

Hockey, Phil. Waders of Southern Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: Struik Winchester, 1995.

Perrins, Christopher, ed. Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2003.

Web sites:

"Family Glareolidae (Coursers and Pratincoles)." Animal Diversity Web. Glareolidae.html#Glareolidae (accessed on May 4, 2004).

"Glareolidae (Coursers and Pratincoles)." The Internet Bird Collection. (accessed on May 4, 2004).

"Pratincoles, Coursers." Bird Families of the World, Cornell University. (accessed on May 4, 2004).


Class: Aves Order: Charadriiformes Family: Charadriidae Number of species: 66 species


phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family


Plovers (PLUH-verz or PLOH-verz) and lapwings vary in size from about 5.5 to 16 inches in length (14 to 40 centimeters) and from 1.25 to 10.5 ounces (35 to 298 grams) in weight. Members of the family tend to have chunky bodies, legs that are either short or of medium length, and short bills. Most species are black and white in color with some areas of brown or gray. Some species have bold markings on the face, dark rings around the neck, or black and white wing markings. Lapwing species sometimes have bright wattles, folds of skin that hang from the neck. Lapwings also have spurs on their wings that they use to fight with members of the same species or to defend their nests from intruders.


Plovers and lapwings are found worldwide, on all continents except Antarctica.


Plovers and lapwings occupy a wide range of habitats including seashores, the banks of freshwater lakes and ponds, grasslands, and even flooded tundra areas. Many species occupy human-associated habitats such as agricultural fields, sewage ponds, airports, golf courses, roads, and rooftops.


Plovers and lapwings eat a diverse diet of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, animals without a backbone, small vertebrates, animals with a backbone, such as fish or lizards, and plant materials such as berries and seeds. Berries are a particularly important part of the diet of tundra species, since there are lengthy periods where few or no insects are available. Most members of this family catch food by running after prey and pecking at it with their bills. Some species use their feet to pat at or scratch the ground to reveal prey. One species, the Magellanic plover, is known for turning over stones to find prey. More aquatic plovers and lapwings, such as the red-kneed dotterel or white-tailed plover, search for food in the water, often sticking their heads underwater to snatch prey. One species, the wrybill, has a special curved bill that it uses to grab mayfly larvae or fish eggs from the bottoms of rocks.

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