Tuesday 21 May
Cream-coloured courser (Cursorius cursor)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Cream-coloured courser fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Cream-coloured courser description
The cream-coloured courser (Cursorius cursor) is a tall, slender bird with a relatively long, pointed, down-curved beak, a short tail, distinctly long legs and a characteristic upright stance (3) (4). As the name suggests, the body is largely pale cream or sandy in colour, with a white lower belly and sharply contrasting black wing tips and black underwings, which are visible in flight. The head is strikingly marked with a black stripe from the eye to the back of the neck, bordered above by a white stripe, and has a bluish-grey crown (2) (3) (5). The beak is black and the legs and feet are yellowish-white (2). The pale belly, which does not contrast sharply with the rest of the underparts, helps distinguish the cream-coloured courser from other Cursorius species (2) (5). Juvenile cream-coloured coursers have a more mottled, scaly-looking back and a less conspicuous head pattern than the adult (2) (3).
The cream-coloured courser was previously split into five subspecies: Cursorius cursor cursor, Cursorius cursor exsul, Cursorius cursor bogolubovi, Cursorius cursor somalensis and Cursorius cursor littoralis (2). These differ in size, colouration and the presence and extent of darker colouration on the belly (2). However, the smaller, darker subspecies of East Africa, C. c. somalensis and C. c. littoralis, are quite distinct and are now classified together as a separate species, the Somali courser (Cursorius somalensis) (5).Top
Cream-coloured courser biology
The cream-coloured courser feeds by walking or running across the ground, pausing to pick up prey items (2) (3), which are swallowed whole (2). It may also catch insects in flight, or dig for food with the beak (2). The diet includes a range of insect prey, as well as spiders, other invertebrates and seeds (2). Some studies have reported it to specialise in feeding on small ground beetles (8). In flight, the cream-coloured courser appears quite bulky, and flies with the feet trailing. Its calls include a deep, barking praak-praak and a quieter tuk-tuk (3).
The breeding season may vary with location, but usually runs from March to July, or sometimes to September (2) (6). Breeding has also been recorded during winter (October to January) in Senegal (9). The nest is located on bare ground and consists of a shallow, unlined scrape. The cream-coloured courser usually lays 2 eggs (2) (6), which are incubated by both the male and female, hatching after 18 to 19 days (2). The chicks, which are a mottled sandy brown and white above and whitish below, fledge after about 30 days, and begin to breed at a year old (2). Adult cream-coloured coursers have been recorded performing a ‘distraction display’ in which the bird crouches as if brooding an egg or chick, luring predators away from the real chicks or nest, which are some distance away (2) (9). Outside of the breeding season, Cursorius species are usually gregarious, gathering in small flocks or family parties (4).Top
Cream-coloured courser range
The cream-coloured courser is found from the Cape Verde and Canary Islands, across North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and into Asia. Subspecies C. c. exsul occurs on the Cape Verde Islands, C. c. cursor on the Canary Islands, across North Africa and into the Arabian Peninsula, and C. c. bogolubovi from Turkey to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. C. c. cursor moves southwards in winter, when its range extends into northern Kenya, Sudan and the Sahel region of Africa, and it also winters in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, while C. c. bogolubovi is mainly a winter visitor in Pakistan and northwest India (2). The cream-coloured courser also occurs as a vagrant in Europe (2) (3).Top
Cream-coloured courser habitat
This species typically inhabits arid, open, stony or sandy desert and semi-desert, including steppe, gravel plains, gravel roads, salt flats and dune troughs (2) (3) (6). The cream-coloured courser generally prefers relatively flat areas with only low, sparse vegetation (2) (6) (7).Top
Cream-coloured courser status
The cream-coloured courser is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Cream-coloured courser threats
The cream-coloured courser is a widespread species and its population does not appear to be undergoing a decline, although the exact population size is unknown now that the species has been split from C. somalensis (10). Increased desertification may even be benefitting this desert-dweller, allowing it to extend its range in some areas (2). However, on the Cape Verde Islands the cream-coloured courser population is relatively small (2), while in the Canary Islands the species has undergone a decline due to egg collection, habitat destruction, road-building and an increase in off-road vehicles. Human disturbance, overgrazing by goats, predation by introduced mammals and increasing tourist developments are also threatening the species on these islands (2) (6) (7).Top
Cream-coloured courser conservation
Within Europe, the cream-coloured courser is listed under Annex I of the EC Birds Directive, which provides a framework for bird conservation in the region (11). A Species Action Plan is also in place in Europe, which recommends a range of conservation actions for the cream-coloured courser in the Canary Islands. These include the designation of protected areas, management plans for existing protected areas, controlling feral dogs and cats, and restricting vehicle movement and grazing within areas critical to this species. It also recommends further research into the cream-coloured courser and regular monitoring of its population (6). Conservation measures already taken for the houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata) on the islands are also likely to benefit the cream-coloured courser, which shares its habitat (6). In other parts of its range, the cream-coloured courser may occur in a number of protected areas, including the Badhyz State Nature Reserve in Turkmenistan, a proposed World Heritage Site (12).Top
Find out more
To find out more about the cream-coloured courser and its conservation, see:
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:
- A process of sustained decline of the biological productivity of arid and semiarid land; the end-result is desert, or skeletal soil that is irrecoverable.
- Previously domesticated animals that have returned to a wild state.
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
- A vast grassland plain, characterised by few trees and low rainfall.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
- An individual found outside the normal range of the species.
IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G. and Hollom, P.A.D. (1993) Peterson Field Guides: Birds of Britain and Europe. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
- Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Pearson, D.J. and Ash, J.S. (1996) The taxonomic position of the Somali courser Cursorius (cursor) somalensis. Bulletin of British Ornithologists’ Club, 116(4): 225-229.
González, C. (1999) Species Action Plan for the Cream-Coloured Courser Cursorius cursor in Europe. BirdLife International, UK and European Commission. Available at:
- Palomino, D., Seoane, J., Carrascal, L.M. and Alonso, C.L. (2008) Competing effects of topographic, lithological, vegetation structure and human impact in the habitat preferences of the cream-coloured courser. Journal of Arid Environments, 72: 401-410.
- Mian, A. (1999) On biology of houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii) in Balochistan, Pakistan: food of some dominant bird species and food web. Pakistan Journal of Zoology, 31(2): 167-174.
- Triplet, P. and Yésou, P. (1994) Winter breeding and distraction display of the cream-coloured courser. Wader Study Group Bulletin, 72: 32.
BirdLife International (September, 2010)
EC Birds Directive (September, 2010)
UNESCO World Heritage Centre - Badhyz State Nature Reserve, Turkmenistan (September, 2010)
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.