Oriental Bird Images
 

 
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Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum   - Flock in flight
Oriental Pratincole
Photographer : © Amar-Singh HSS
Location :Malim Nawar Wetlands, Perak, Malaysia
Date : 10 October 2019
English synonyms:Eastern Pratincole, Eastern Collared Pratincole, Indian Pratincole, Large Indian Pratincole, Pratincole
Bird Family :Glareolidae - Coursers & Pratincoles
Bird Group :CICONIIFORMES
Red Data Status :Least Concern
Remarks :I had an opportunity to watch Oriental Pratincoles today. They congregate at this wetland site in large numbers. I counted birds (using images and intentionally underestimate) and one flock alone, on the ground, was 260 birds with a sizable number being first winter birds. There were other birds scattered all round and some flocks in the air. Hence the actual numbers exceeds 400 birds.
These birds are known to feed on insects in the air and possibly on the ground. But of interest to me is their behaviour of soaring with the thermals. I saw this behaviour again today (see image taken at 10.30am). When they soar really high up, they look so much like raptors from below. In trying to understand this behaviour, I came across some opinions. Higgins & Davies (1996) state that “Flocks of thousands of birds ascend in thermals near cyclonic storms to feed on insects and other prey sucked up by thermals…”. Bergin & Finger (2013) describe observations where “Oriental Pratincoles …. are usually seen in large flocks in Australia …. They can be seen roosting on the beaches in the heat of the day or swirling up in the sky like a smoke plume as they take advantage of the thermals”. Biota Environmental Sciences (2018) quoting various sources, offers the best information, and states “Oriental Pratincoles are known to regularly use thermal soaring in north-western Australia (Piersman & Hassell 2010) …. they report an observation of thermal soaring 600-700 meters above ground …. The reasons for this behaviour have not been documented; however, the description of the birds gliding in circles (Piersma and Hassell 2010) suggests that they were not actively foraging. The regular use of thermals by Oriental Pratincoles during the heat of the day suggests that they may be using altitude as a thermal refuge, as air temperatures at such altitudes may be 2-3 ºC cooler than at ground level (Livingstone et al. 1999)”. I tend to agree with the last observation. They appear to be circling high up and unlikely to be feeding. They could also be using the thermals to gain altitude and move to other feeding sites.
-Amar
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