Magellanic plover (Pluvianellus socialis)

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Adult magellanic plover
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Magellanic plover fact file

Magellanic plover description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderCharadriiformes
FamilyCharadriidae
GenusPluvianellus (1)

A rare and attractive wading bird, the Magellanic plover has a plump, dove-like body with soft, pale grey plumage on the head and upper body (3) (4). The upper breast is silvery grey, often with a brown tinge, while the underparts are uniform white (2) (3). In contrast to the subtle plumage tones, the eyes are bright red while the noticeably short legs are pink (2). The juvenile resembles the adult, but has buffy mottling on the upperparts, yellow legs and orange-grey eyes (2) (3).

Size
Length: 19.5 – 21.5 cm (2)
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Magellanic plover biology

A very active species, the Magellanic plover is commonly encountered foraging in small flocks along the seashore during the winter, or alone or in pairs on the shores of lakes during the breeding season (2). It displays a number of behaviours that are unique amongst waders, including digging into sand or mud with its powerful legs to find prey such as small crustaceans and the worm-like larvae of chironomid flies (2) (4). Prey is also taken from the surface and from beneath upturned pebbles, stones and shells (2).

After spending the winter at the coast, the Magellanic plover migrates inland, usually to highland areas. Nests are constructed by the breeding pairs on wide clay or pebble shores of lakes and ponds, and comprise a simple scrape lined with gravel, close to the water. Both the nesting site and the area in which the pair feed are fiercely defended from encroachment by conspecifics. The female lays a clutch of two eggs which are incubated by both parent birds (2). Once hatched, the chicks are fed by regurgitation of food from the parent birds’ crops, another behaviour which has not been observed in other waders (2) (4). Fledging occurs after around one month, after which the young are fed by the parent birds for a further ten days. The second chick in the clutch is often weak, and frequently dies of starvation (2).

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Magellanic plover range

Breeding populations of the Magellanic plover are found in extreme southern Chile and southern Argentina (2) (3). While some individuals reside in this area throughout the year, others winter further north in the Valdés peninsula, south-central Argentina, and sometimes as far as Buenos Aires province (3).

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Magellanic plover habitat

During the breeding season, the Magellanic plover is found on the open shores of freshwater or brackish lakes and shallow pools in areas of grassland at elevations of up to 1,200 metres. Outside the breeding season, this species generally migrates to the coast, where it inhabits sheltered bays, lagoons and river mouths (2) (3).

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Magellanic plover status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

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Magellanic plover threats

Although not considered to be globally threatened, the Magellanic plover has a small population, estimated to be fewer than 10,000 birds (3), and potentially as low as 1,500 (2). Although it has been impacted by the destruction and degradation of its grassland breeding habitat by grazing livestock and introduced herbivores, this is unlikely to account for its low numbers. It may be that the Magellanic plover’s environment, which is relatively inhospitable, naturally limits its population size (3). Nevertheless, further threats to this species may include trampling of nests and chicks by grazing animals, predation by feral cats and dogs, and pollution from oil spills, garbage dumping and sewage (3) (5).

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Magellanic plover conservation

The Magellanic plover is located in several protected areas in Argentina and Chile, which should help to limit disturbance and habitat destruction. Further surveys should be undertaken to try and find this species in areas of suitable habitat, and its ecology and threats should be studied in more detail. In addition, the monitoring of existing populations that is currently occurring on Gallegos and Chico estuaries should be continued and extended to other key sites (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To learn more about conservation initiatives within the Magellanic plover’s range visit:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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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
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Glossary

Brackish
Slightly salty water.
Conspecifics
Individuals that belong to the same species.
Crop
The crop is an expanded, muscular pouch near the throat. It is a part of the digestive tract, and is used to temporarily store food.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
    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. BirdLife International (June, 2009)
    http://www.birdlife.org
  4. Kampf, R. (1996) A note on the feeding behaviour of Magellanic Plover Pluvianellus socialis. Wader Study Group Bulletin, 80: 78 - .
  5. Ferrari, S., Imberti, S. and Albrieu, C. (2003) Magellanic Plovers Pluvianellus socialis in southern Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Wader Study Group Bulletin, 101: 1 - 7.
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Image credit

Adult magellanic plover  
Adult magellanic plover

© Roger Tidman / www.flpa-images.co.uk

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