Skip to main content

Spur-winged Plover


Walking along North Street with my dog, always there are spur-winged plovers to be seen in the paddocks. There used to be two or three pairs but this winter I see just the one pair. I hope this is not a trend!



Travelling throughout New Zealand, especially through farmland, the one bird that one is most likely to see is the spur–winged plover, very often being harried by and, in turn, harrying a harrier hawk. However, spur-winged plovers did not used to be so widespread, the first pair recorded breeding at Invercargill airport in 1932. In spite of the heavy predation of their chicks by harrier hawks and our national propensity for using birds for target practice, their numbers have now become so great that there is talk of culling them. Not a good reason, I would think.

There are two well marked races of this bird; the smaller race, Vanellus miles novaehollandiae, originally just bred in the south–east of Australia but then extended its range to Tasmania and New Zealand. The other, northern, race, Vanellus miles miles, has extended its range from northern Australia to New Guinea.

Both races frequent wet grasslands but will readily adapt to man–made habitats such as pastures, sports grounds, airfields and even median strips on busy roads. Indeed, one will often see them on median strips while driving to Wellington. Somehow they seem to have worked out that their chicks will be safe there from cats and harrier hawks. Their liking for airports however, is not a good idea as it leaves them open to some severe culling because of the fear of bird strike.

This large plover has a black crown, hind neck and shoulders, with the back and wings brown in colour. The underparts are white and the legs and feet are reddish. The bill is yellow and the bird has a yellow facial patch and prominent wattles. It has spurs on its wings.

The spur–winged plover feeds mainly on insects, worms and similar small invertebrates but will also eat seeds. Their main call is a loud, penetrating rattle, often heard at night which may explain why many people have grown to hate them.

Breeding is between June and late November with the peak in August. Several clutches are laid each year. The nest is a scrape in the ground, unlined or scantily lined, situated in rough open pasture, a flat wet area or on stony ground. The clutch of 1 – 4 khaki eggs with brownish, black blotches is incubated by both sexes for 30-31 days. The fledging period is 7 – 8 weeks.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Turkeys and the domestic contract between animals and farmers

I suppose one should be forgiven for thinking about turkeys at Thanksgiving or Christmas but I wonder how many realise how much the wild turkey is part of our rural landscape, so much so that Americans now come out here to the Bay of Plenty to hunt them. When I first came to the Bay of Plenty, I was much taken by the mobs of wild turkeys wandering about the district. I was especially interested in those wandering about my neighbours’ farms but soon learned that the turkeys were not so wild that my neighbour’s did not have a propriety interest in them. Turkeys were introduced to New Zealand around the 1890s. In those days, until around the 1950s, most farms raised a few pigs and had a mob of turkeys along with “chooks” and ducks to give a greater self-sufficiency than is apparent on most farms today. The turkeys were half domesticated and half wild in that the mobs were allowed to roam free but were occasionally fed maize. The chore of rounding up the mob to feed them usually fell to the …

A Murder of Rooks

From Southland to Northland, Regional Councils around the country are once again putting out the call for sightings of rooks, Corvis frugilegus, in their efforts to exterminate them.
The rook is a minor agricultural pest, on a par with the yellowhammer, so how did this bird become a target for extermination rather than control? How did this bird become an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act?
The rook is a black, hoarse–voiced bird about the size of a magpie which was brought to New Zealand from Britain between 1862 and 1874 to help control agricultural pests. Unlike many other European birds introduced at the same time, rooks spread very slowly at first. Even as late as 1970, they were largely confined to parts of the Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, southern Wairarapa and Canterbury.
In the 1971 rooks were declared an agricultural pest in the Hawke’s Bay, largely because of the damage done to emerging crops.  Something like 35,000 thousand were shot, probably about half the population. Co…

They don't know who we are

They Don't Know Who We Are
I was sitting over the kitchen table, drinking tea and smoking. The back door was open but no matter how hard I listened I could never hear him coming until he kicked off his boots at the back door. “Sitting in the dark again,” he said as he came in and turned on the light. We blinked.
I poured him a cup of tea and lit another cigarette, tailor made. He sat down and rolled a cigarette. Those were the days when we all smoked, chain smoked.
“There are a couple of deer up there,” he said after he had lit his cigarette.   “Yeah,” I said. The pause was long and drawn out. “A hind and her fawn I figure.”
We drank our tea and smoked our cigarettes. I let him come to it in his own time.
“I suppose I should shoot them, before someone else does.”
I shrugged and shook my head.  I had seen it all before with hunters. Once we get past the age of 30 the old thrill of the hunt goes, and we get all sentimental, become bird watchers and photographers. The same with fishermen. T…