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Blacksmith Plover

Bird of the month is the Blacksmith Plover (Vanellus armatus).

Blacksmith Plover

Colouring: Bare parts: iris ruby red; bill, legs and feet black. Boldly pied black-and-white wih greyish back and wings; underparts black from chin to upper belly.

Voice: Characteristic klink, klink, klink, like hammer on anvil (hence name); klinking becomes screaming when agitated near nest or young.

Habitat: Shorelines of dams, pans, vleis, sewage ponds; also wet pastures, large lawns, playing fields, short grassy verges of inland waters; less often tidal flats in bays and lagoons.

Distribution: Throughout Southern Africa to East Africa, but patchy in dry western regions; range expanding.

Habits: Often solitary or in pairs; non-breeding birds may gather in loose flocks of 20-30, sometimes more. Silent when foraging or resting, usually calling only in flight and when alarmed; forages in short grass or on shorelines, stepping quickly in short bursts, stopping to peck suddenly at food. Rather wary; flight buoyant with slow heavy wingbeats. At rest stands with head hunched into shoulders.

Food: Insects, worms, molluscs.

Breeding season: Mainly July to October in most of Southern Africa, seldom in summer months.

Incubation and fledging: Nest: scrape in soil, usually lined with dry plant fragments, bits of earth and small stones. Clutch: usually three to four, deep yellow-ochre to khaki-yellow, boldly blotched and spotted with black and grey. Incubation: 26-31 days. Fledging: about 41 days; young attended to by both parents.

References: Gordon Lindsay Maclean: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, Sixth Edition. 1993.

Kenneth Newman: Newman’s Birds by Colour. 2000.

Photographs are courtesy of Gavin Orbel, Eris Stockenstroom and Mercia Komen of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy/Oori; this series is a joint venture with Hartebeestfontein Conservancy (text)