Pass in review - The Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
This story depicts the courtship behaviour of the Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), a chubby, long-legged shorebird that is about as big as a lark. Ringed Plovers are either short-distance migrants or medium- up to long-distance migrants. Thus they hibernate for example on the British Isles (short-distance migrants) as well as in Mauretania (long-distance migrants).
Most of their brooding habitats are in open, flat shores and lakeshores covered by areas with short grass, sand and gravel in Central and Northern Europe, but also in the tundra. In Germany, the highest number of broods is in certain districts of the national parks on the North Sea coast.
Males and females are very similar; however, the male can generally be identified by its plumage which is marked by a more distinct blackening of the neckband and especially of the mask around the eyes.
The neckband and posterior mask of the female's plumage, however, is often marked by a slight brown colouring.
Rarely, there are also colour deviations - like you can see on this picture that shows a male marked by an enhanced whitening of the head and neck area.
Ringed Plovers form strict, monogamous pairs for the duration of the breeding season: If female and male have formed a partnership once, they keep meeting annually at the breeding season - as long as both partners are still alive - in order to produce offspring once again.
If the small birds arrive in their breeding habitats in early spring, their territory bond, thus their territory behaviour grows stronger till the beginning of the breeding season. Fellow species as well as other bird species are immediately and aggressively chased away, as soon as they intrude into the territory which is about 300 to 400 square metres large.
At this time, the male gives the female its best attention and woos it again and again. It straightens up imposingly and shows itself at its best by fluffing up its breast feathers.
Some time before the actual beginning of the breeding season, the male shows a special behaviour - the so-called "pseudo nesting". Its pseudo nesting attitude can already be identified by its gait: While running around, it ducks its head so that its back almost runs horizontally. In this way, it looks for a suitable nesting place.
If the male has found such a nesting place, it lets out pseudo nesting sounds. These are special, short and bright calls signifying the beginning of the pseudo nesting.
After that, the male perches on the ground with ruffled breast feathers.
In this position, its wings are slightly splayed out and opened so that the alulae touch the ground and the pinions point upwards.
Now the bird's legs continuously kick out backwards like a drum roll so that the sand below its lifted tail flies away vehemently.
Sitting on its strongly bent legs the bird swings around its longitudinal axis by slightly lifting its hip and leg joints alternately so that its breastbone paws the ground to and fro.
Now and then the assiduously working male gets up, spins around a bit and perches again on the newly found position. Due to those constant changes of direction, a small nest hollow is generated within a short time. During the whole activity, the bird steadily lets out loud pseudo nesting calls.
So the picture report continues:
- Pass in review of the male (courtship)
- Submissive stoop
- Aggressive behaviour
- Brooding change-over
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