Collared pratincole (Glareola pratincola)

Also known as: Common pratincole
French: Glaréole à collier
GenusGlareola (1)
SizeLength: 24 – 28 cm (2)
Wingspan: 60 – 70 cm (2)
Weight70 – 95 g (3)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The common name of this bird arises from the distinctive band of black plumage that runs around the throat, from eye to eye, giving the appearance of a necklace or a collar. The rest of the head, and also the back, are a sandy brown (4), and the belly and rump are white (3). The black, forked tail and dark brown wings are long and narrow (4), and the wings have rust-coloured linings (5). The short, hooked beak is black with a red base (4). There is little to distinguish male collared pratincoles from females and (4), for both sexes, breeding adults have cream-coloured throats (5). Juveniles lack the distinctive head decorations of the adults, and also differ in the plumage of the back, which has a scaled pattern (5) (6).

The collared pratincole breeds in southern Europe, north and central Africa, and central Asia, and migrates south during winter to southern Africa and India (3) (7).

The collared pratincole inhabits flat, open areas with sparse vegetation, as well as patches of bare ground, overgrazed pastures and, occasionally, ploughed fields in Europe and Asia. In Africa, it is usually found in open areas close to the water, especially along larger rivers and estuaries where there is mud and sparse grasses (8).

This bird typically lives in small colonies, although outside of the breeding season these can expand to considerably larger flocks (5). It is an insectivore, most active at dawn and dusk, when it feeds predominantly on grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, and beetles (3). Usually feeding in a flock, the collared pratincole zigzags gracefully through swarming insects (3) (4), plucking prey from the air with an elegance comparable to that of a swallow. However, it is also a fast runner and is often able to hunt successfully without taking to the air (5).

Breeding takes place annually, when the collared pratincole constructs a nest at a location chosen for its safety from predators (3), such as a small island in a lake, or on a sandbank or mudflat (3).  The nest itself can be any dent in the earth, even a hoof-print (3). Hundreds of breeding pairs may nest together, although birds that get too close to their neighbours are often seen as intruders and will be warned off with a threatening pose (3). Within 19 days of the eggs being laid, the chicks will have hatched and can run almost immediately, but do not fledge until about a month later. It takes only a year for an individual to reach sexual maturity (3). In September, after the breeding season, the European and Asian colonies migrate to the warmer climates of Africa, returning to the breeding areas in March (3).

Pratincoles have a strange method of distracting predators from the nest; if harassed enough, the bird will fall to the ground and act as if one or both of its wings are broken, often trailing a wing behind as it walks. This behaviour will cause a predator to turn its attention to the adult and away from the nest (3).

The collared pratincole is not considered globally threatened due to its relatively large population size; in 2009 it was estimated that there were between 170,000 and 600,000 individuals worldwide (9). However, numbers are declining due to the use of herbicides and insecticides which affect the availability of prey, as well as habitat change or loss due to changing agricultural techniques, and human disturbances at breeding sites (9).

There are no known specific conservation measures in place for this species.

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:

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
  2. Cramp, S. and Perrins, C. (1994). The Birds of the Western Palaearctic: Volume VIII. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish, Tarrytown, New York.
  4. Grewal, B., Harvey, B. and Pfister, O. (2003)A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India: And the Indian Subcontinent, Including Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
  5. Davidson, I. and Sinclair, I. (2006) Southern African Birds: A Photographic Guide. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  6. Peterson, R.T., Mountford, G. and Hollom, P.A.D. (1993) A Field Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
  7. Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: Profiles of Birds Occurring in Britain and Ireland. BTO Research Report 407, BTO, Thetford.
  8. Del Hoyo, J., Elliot, and Sargatal, J. (1996). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
  9.  BirdLife International (November, 2009)