Australian pratincole (Stiltia isabella)

loading
Australian pratincole
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST
CONCERN

Top facts

  • The Australian pratincole is different to other pratincole species in that it has long legs and unusually long wings.
  • One of the distinctive features of the Australian pratincole is the dark chestnut patch on its breast and belly.
  • The downcurved bill of the Australian pratincole has a red base and a black tip.
  • Although the Australian pratincole generally feeds on the ground, running swiftly after its prey, it is also known to feed in the air, hawking after flying insects.
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Australian pratincole fact file

Australian pratincole description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderCharadriiformes
FamilyGlareolidae
GenusStiltia (1)

A slim, graceful wader (4), the Australian pratincole (Stiltia isabella) is a highly distinctive species (5), being different to the seven other pratincole species in having long legs and unusually long wings (2) (3) (4) (5). These wings are slender and pointed (2), and project far past the tip of the tail (2) (4).

Male and female Australian pratincoles are similar in appearance (3). In its breeding plumage, this species has cinnamon-brown upperparts (2) (3) and a white rump, while its throat is whitish shading to a pinkish-cinnamon towards the breast (2). A distinctive feature of the Australian pratincole is the presence of a dark chestnut patch on the lower breast and belly (2) (3) (5). The tail is short, square and white, with a black central patch (2) (4) (5), while the sandy-coloured upperwings have black primary feathers (2) (4). Silvery-grey secondary feathers stand out against the mostly black underwing (2).

The Australian pratincole has black lores (2) (5), and its downcurved bill is sharply defined, with a red base and a black tip (3) (5). This species’ legs are dark (5), ranging from grey to reddish-brown (4).

In the non-breeding season, the adult Australian pratincole’s plumage is duller (2) (4) (5) and lacks the dark lores (2) (5), while its bill and legs are a dull greyish colour (4). The dark chestnut patch on its breast and belly is reduced in size (5), and may appear to be divided (2) (5). Browner upperparts with sandy or buff fringes, a duller red bill, and shorter outer primary feathers distinguish the juvenile Australian pratincole from the adult (2) (4) (5).

The Australian pratincole is reported to produce a repeated, liquid call, described as ‘weetweet’, as well as a tern-like, trilling ‘quirree-quirree’ or ‘quee-quee(4).

Also known as
Australian courser, isabelline pratincole, long-legged pratincole.
Size
Length: 21 - 24 cm (2) (3)
Weight
60 - 70 g (3)
Top

Australian pratincole biology

A primarily insectivorous species (2) (7), the Australian pratincole generally feeds on grasshoppers, beetles, dragonflies, termites and other large insects, although it will also eat centipedes, spiders and even seeds (2). Much of the Australian pratincole’s foraging occurs on the ground (2) (3), and it is capable of running swiftly to catch insects (2) (3) (4), occasionally stopping its prey using an outstretched wing before lunging towards it with its bill (2). However, the Australian pratincole also forages in flight (2) (3) (4), hawking adeptly after flying insects (4), often at considerable heights (3) (4). This species is highly water-dependent (7), and needs to drink frequently (2).

Breeding in the Australian pratincole is dependent upon the weather, mostly occurring between September and November (2). This species nests on open, bare, stony ground (2) (7), with the nest site often being outlined with small stones and dry plant material. The Australian pratincole breeds in small, loose colonies, which are usually located within two kilometres of water. The female typically lays 2 eggs, which are incubated for a period of between 18 and 21 days (2). Both the male and the female Australian pratincole take part in egg incubation (2) (7), and both sexes are also involved in feeding and brooding the young once they have hatched. The young fledge at about three to four weeks of age (2).

The main cause of nest failure in the Australian pratincole is predation by ravens, as well as introduced foxes, snakes and lizards. Chicks sometimes hide within rabbit burrows or shelter under shrubs, and the adult bird is known to carry out a broken-wing distraction display at the nest when threatened, to lure the predator away from the young birds (2).

Top

Australian pratincole range

The Australian pratincole breeds in Australia (2) (3) (4) (6), specifically within the drier regions of the northern and eastern parts of the country. In wetter years, it can be found further south, although it is absent from south-western areas (2).

Between May and November, the Australian pratincole may migrate northwards (4), flying to northern Queensland and the Northern Territory of Australia (2), as well as further afield to southern New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Timor-Leste (2) (3) (4) (6).

Top

Australian pratincole habitat

The Australian pratincole tends to favour rather bare habitats or areas of sparse grassland (2) (4), including gravel plains, open plains with limestone pebbles and scattered low shrubs, and open shorelines of lakes, rivers and lagoons. It is seldom found far from water (2). This species is also often found on airfields (2) (4), as well as harvested or fallow rice fields (2).

In Papua New Guinea, the Australian pratincole has been recorded from sea level up to elevations of 1,740 metres (2).

Top

Australian pratincole status

The Australian pratincole is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

Top

Australian pratincole threats

The Australian pratincole has an extremely large range (6), and as it is not currently facing any major threats, it is not considered to be globally threatened (2). However, this species may be hunted in Indonesia (2).

Top

Australian pratincole conservation

As the Australian pratincole is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction, there are no known specific conservation measures in place for this species at present.

Top

Find out more

Find out more about the Australian pratincole:

Learn more about bird conservation in Australia:

Find out more about conservation in Australia:

Top

Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

Top

Glossary

Incubate
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Incubation
The act of incubating eggs; that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Insectivorous
Insect-eating.
Lores
The space between a bird’s bill and eyes.
Primary feathers
The main flight feathers projecting along the outer edge of a bird’s wing.
Secondary feathers
The shorter flight feathers projecting along the inner edge of a bird’s wing.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Burnie, D. (2011) Animal. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., London.
  4. Dutson, G. (2012) Birds of Melanesia: Bismarcks, Solomons, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. A&C Black Publishers, London.
  5. Marchant, J., Hayman, P. and Prater, T. (2010) Shorebirds. A&C Black Publishers, London.
  6. BirdLife International - Australian pratincole (November, 2012)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3194
  7. Maclean, G.L. (1996) The Ecophysiology of Desert Birds. Springer, Berlin.
X
Close

Image credit

Australian pratincole  
Australian pratincole

© Don Hadden / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Australian pratincole (Stiltia isabella) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is found in Barrow Island. Visit our Barrow Island topic page to find out more.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS