Madagascar pratincole (Glareola ocularis)
|Size||Length: 23 - 25 cm (2)|
|Weight||82 – 103 g (2)|
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
In flight, the Madagascar pratincole cuts a distinctive silhouette, with long, pointed brown wings and a forked black and white tail (3). On the ground, the light brown plumage can be more closely observed, and the pale reddish upper belly and white lower belly can be seen. The front and top of the head is a dark chocolate brown, contrasting with the broad white stripe that runs underneath and behind the dark brown eye. The short, hooked bill is black with a red base and the legs and toes are dark grey. Juvenile Madagascar pratincoles can be distinguished by their streaky, reddish breast; streaks of reddish or tan on the upperparts, and the lack of a white line near the eyes (2) (3). When feeding in flight, the Madagascar pratincole can be heard emitting a piercing string of ‘veet ee veet’ sounds (3).
As its name suggests, this bird occurs in Madagascar, where it breeds. During winter, it migrates to East Africa where it can be found between southern Somalia and northern Mozambique, particularly in coastal parts of Kenya and Tanzania (2) (3).
The Madagascar pratincole breeds on rocky islets in rivers, saltmarshes and coastal waters (2) (4). When not breeding, on the African mainland, this bird inhabits coastal areas, the shores of lakes, sandbars in rivers and estuaries, short grasslands and coastal dunes (2), where it has been observed from sea level up to altitudes of 1,500 metres (3).
The Madagascar pratincole is a gregarious bird, often found in groups of 10 to 50 when resting and in flocks of up to 150 birds when hunting in flight (3). Whilst flying over grassland, beaches, water or woodland, the Madagascar pratincole feeds mostly on insects. It can be seen on hunting flights most often in the late evening, but it may also be seen during other parts of the day when the sky is overcast (2).
After spending winter on the African mainland, this bird then migrates back to Madagascar where it can be found from September until April or May (2). In early November, small groups of pratincoles nest close to each other on rocky islets. They lay an average of two tan-coloured eggs patterned with dark brown, into a depression in the rock, which may sometimes be lined with the regurgitated exoskeletons of insects (2) (3).
Numbers of Madagascar pratincoles are believed to be declining due to their wetland habitat being impacted by human modification. Breeding areas on the eastern coast of Madagascar are thought to be particularly vulnerable (4).
The Madagascar pratincole is included in the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), an agreement which encourages countries to engage in a wide range of conservation actions to protect migratory birds dependent on wetlands (5). As yet, only one breeding site of the Madagascar pratincole is believed to receive protection: the rocks off the Nosy Mangabe Special Reserve in north-eastern Madagascar. However, the inaccessibility of other breeding sites may afford this Vulnerable bird some level of protection from human activities (2).
For further information on the Madagascar pratincole see:
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- Exoskeletons: external skeletons that support and protect animals’ bodies.
IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Langrand, O. (1990) Guide to the Birds of Madagascar. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.
BirdLife International (May, 2008)
AEWA (May, 2008)