Bird of the Day: Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola – Paykull, 1805)

Crab Plover is one of my favorite waders….never let go any opportunity to observe and photograph this large, long-legged, pied, exclusively marine wader. It’s regular visitor to Marine National Park, Gulf of Kutch, Jamnagar, Gujarat. In winter you can see them in Hundreds!!!!!…
Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)Crab Plover was described by Swedish entomologist Friherr Gustaf von Paykull(1757-1826) in 1805 Kongl.(Kungl.)(Svenska) Vetenskaps Akad.(Acad.) nya (NYA) Handlingar 26 p.182,188 pl.8

Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)

Although Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola) is related to the waders, but is sufficiently distinctive to merit its own family Dromadidae. Its relationship within the Charadriiformes is unclear: Some have considered it to be closely related to the Thick-knees, or the pratincoles, while others have considered it closer to the auks and gulls. It is the only member of the genus Dromas. Sibley & Monroe, relying heavily on DNA-DNA hybridization evidence, considered carb plover just a very odd courser (Glareolidae). Most taxonomists elevate it to its own monotypic family. In fact Jehl divided all the waders into three groups on the basis of his study of downy chicks: the jaçanas & painted-snipes, the Crab Plover, and then all the remaining families. This division — which elevates the Crab Plover to its own superfamily — highlights its uniqueness and is considered the “standard” approach at present.

Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)

Crab plover lives on coasts of Indian Ocean. It breeds on shore of N.W. Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and Somalia in April – July. Non breeders range Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar, W India and N Sri Lanka.

Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)

Crab plover is a strikingly patterned large wader. When head sunk on shoulders, large head and massive bill (2 to 2.30 inches) gives an impression of a long-legged gull when seen at a distance. It has a massive straight black bill. It’s bill is unique among waders, and specialized for eating crabs. It has a disproportional large head, either all white or with at most dark streaking on rear crown and nape.

Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)

Plumage is white, except for black on its back and in the primary feathers of the wings, conspicuous in flight. Eyes are large and dark. Tail is grayish, long legs are bluish grey, with partially webbed toes. Both sexes are similar. Juvenile lacks distinctive adult pattern, with grey-brown wing coverts, black-brown crown and hind neck, silvery grey mantle and browner tail. It lacks also massive bill and it has shorter legs. They attain adult plumage when they are 15 months old.

Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)

Crab plover lives on sandy coastlines and islands, intertidal sandflats and mudflats, estuaries, lagoons, exposed coral reefs, and rocky shorelines. It’s also found in sand dunes when it is breeding.

Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)

Crab plover feeds primarily on crabs, but also crustaceans, small mollusks, marine worms and intertidal invertebrates. They feeds by picking and probing and slow stalking, crabs are stabbed with open bill, then crushed and eaten.

Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)

Crab plover has a characteristic behavior: it rests on flat tarsi, like sit on the ground. It feeds with plover-like “run-stop-run-dip-action”. Most often feeds in flocks on mudflats at low tide, or in shallow water. It’s most active at dusk and at night. Feeds by picking and probing, and slow stalking. Crab are stabbed which open bill, then crushed and eaten. At high tide, Crab plover use roosts with other shorebirds, or wade out among flamingos. Crab plover’s call is a barking, repeated “ka-how, ka-how…” and on breeding grounds, a sharp, whistling “kew-ki-ki” or “ki-twek”. They are noisy birds, calling frequently on their breeding and wintering areas. Crab plover flies strongly, with wing beats rather slow. Legs are projected well beyond tail in flight.

Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)

Colonial nesting, an aspect in the nesting behavior of crab plover which has a strong bearing on their conservation, is much more characteristic of seabirds, be they on cliffs or on islands, than of waders. Only a dozen or so crab plover breeding colonies are known and several of those that have been pinpointed have not been visited in recent years. All are on islands and conservation is effectively an ‘all or nothing’ act: an entire population can be saved, or just as easily lost, in one fell swoop. The same applies in the winter quarters, albeit to a lesser degree, because they remain sociable year-round, feeding in a limited number of particularly favored areas. Its distribution is very localized. Indeed, only nine nesting colonies are known in the entire world! Compared with the majority of the worlds’ coastal breeding waders, crab plovers have a very restricted breeding range, stretching from Somalia in the west via the coast of Arabia to Iran in the east. Most waders with such a characteristic are confined to one, or a few, islands and several have become very rare while others are now extinct. The Crab Plover is unique among waders by nesting in burrows that it digs itself. Some ornithologists have noted that this behavior is like auks. They breeds colonially in burrows set close together, forming honeycomb effect in sandy areas in Apr-July. Nest is unlined chamber at end of burrow 100-250 cm long, in sandy substrate. They normally lay one egg and chicks have plain grey down, fed by parents in nest chamber.

Gallery: Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola – Paykull, 1805)


Calls From xeno-canto.org

Further Reading on Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola – Paykull, 1805):

  • Al-Nasrallah K; Gregory G , (2003), Bubiyan Island, Kuwait, 2002., Phoenix, 19: 5 – 7.
  • Anon, (1876), Notes, Stray Feathers, 4:4,5&6: 496 – 507.
  • Aspinall S; Hellyer P , (2006), Important Bird Areas of the United Arab Emirates., British Birds, 99: 546 – 561.
  • AUGUSTO DE SANCTIS, LUCA BIDDAU, MAURO FASOLA , (2005), Post-migratory care of young by Crab Plovers Dromas ardeola, Ibis, 147:3: 490 – 497.
  • Baker ECS; , (1929), The game birds of the indian empire. Part 8. the crab plover, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 33:2: 223 – 228.
  • Bharucha EK;Samant JS; , (1984), On the sighting of a flock of Crab Plovers at Kolhapur, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 81:3: 698.
  • Brown, J. N. B., M. Verhage, R. P. Morris. , (1991), Crab Plovers on Jazirat Abu al Abyad., Tribulus, 1.2: 13 – 15.
  • Chiozzi, G., G. D. Marchi , (2003), Confirmed breeding record of the Crab Plover Dromas ardeola in Eritrea, Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 123: 46.
  • Chiozzi, G., G. D. Marchi, et al. (2011). “Coloniality in the Crab Plover Dromas ardeola does not Depend on Nest Site Limitation.” Waterbirds 34(1): 77-81.
  • Cowan, P. J. , (1990), The Crab Plover in Kuwait and the northern Arabian Gulf: a brief review and some new counts., Bulletin of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, 25: 6 – 9.
  • Craig Robson , (2005), Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola), BIRDS OF SOUTH-EAST ASIA; New Holland Publishers Ltd, : 48.
  • Dale A.Zimmerman; Donald A.Turner; David J.Pearson , (2001), Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola), BIRDS of KENYA & NORTHERN TANZANIA; Princeton University Press, : 24 / 330.
  • De Marchi, G., G. Chiozzi, et al. (2006). “Nesting, overwintering, and conservation of the Crab Plover Dromas ardeola in central Eritrea.” Ibis 148(4): 753-764.
  • De Marchi, G., G. Chiozzi, et al. (2008). “Solar incubation cuts down parental care in a burrow nesting tropical shorebird, the crab plover Dromas ardeola.” Journal of Avian Biology 39(5): 484-486.
  • De Sanctis, A., L. Biddau, et al. (2005). “Post-migratory care of young by Crab Plovers Dromas ardeola.” Ibis 147(3): 490-497.
  • Dharmakumarsinhji RS; , (1998), Reminiscences of Indian wildlife, Oxford University Press Delhi, : xi+115.
  • Evans, M. , (1988), Observations on the behaviour of the Crab Plover., Bulletin of the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, 20: 5 – 7.
  • Eve, R., A. M. Guigue. , (1982), Birds on Ko Libong, southern Thailand., Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society, 30: 91 – 104.
  • Fasola, M., L. Canova, et al. (1996). “Foraging Habits of Crab Plovers Dromas ardeola Overwintering on the Kenya Coast.” Colonial Waterbirds 19(2): 207-213.
  • Gregory G , (2006), Bubiyan yields more secrets., Phoenix, 22: 11 – 13.
  • Gyldenstolpe N; , (1926), Types of birds in the Royal Natural History Museum in Stockholm, Arkiv for zoologi, 19A:: 1 – 116.
  • Hockey, P. A. R., É. E. Plagényi, et al. (1996). “FORAGING BEHAVIOUR OF CRAB PLOVERS DROMAS ARDEOLA AT MIDA CREEK, KENYA.” Ostrich 67(1): 33-44.
  • Hockey, P. A. R., et al. , (1999), Scaling patterns in the foraging behaviour of sympatric plovers: effects of body size and diet., Journal of Avian Biology, 30: 40 – 46.
  • Hoffmann TW; , (1992), Colombo; Negombo; Chilaw; Muthurajawela; Colombo, Ceylon Bird Club Notes, 1992:January: 11 – 13.
  • Hume AO; , (1876), Notes, Stray Feathers, 4:4,5&6: 496 – 507.
  • Hume AO; , (1879), On the nidification of Dromas ardeola, Stray Feathers, 8:2-5: 381 – 384.
  • Ian Sinclair; Olivier Langrand , (1998), Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola), BIRDS OF THE INDIAN OCEAN ISLANDS; , : 78.
  • Ian Sinclair; Phil Hockey; Warwick Tarboton , (1997), Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola), BIRDS of SOUTHERN AFRICA; 2nd edition, Princeton University Press, : 162.
  • Jennings MC , (2003), ABBA Survey 31: Bir Ali and Red Sea islands, Yemen., Phoenix, 19: 11 – 20.
  • Jennings MC , (2008), Some bird sites in Yemen., Phoenix, 24: 17 – 19.
  • Jennings, M. C. , (1991), Crab Plovers Dromas ardeola breeding in UAE., Phoenix, 8: 9.
  • K.Mullarney; L.Svensson; D.Zetterstrom; P.J.Grant , (1999), Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola), COLLINS BIRD GUIDE – BRITAIN & EUROPE; Collins, : 380.
  • Khacher L; , (1995), The Crab Plover, Dromas ardeola Paykull – an enigma, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 92:1: 120.
  • Krys Kazmierczak; Ber van Perlo , (2000), Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola), A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT; Yale University Press, : 110.
  • Legge WV; , (1875), On Dromas ardeola, Stray Feathers, 3:1,2&3: 220 – 224.
  • LeMessurier A; , (1875), Additional notes on the avifauna of Sindh, Stray Feathers, 3:5: 378 – 382.
  • Livezey, B. C. (2010). “Phylogenetics of modern shorebirds (Charadriiformes) based on phenotypic evidence: analysis and discussion.” Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 160(3): 567-618.
  • Menesse NH; , (1943), Occurrence of the Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola Payk.) in Sind, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 43:4: 661.
  • MORRIS R P , (1992), Observations on a colony of Crab Plovers Dromas ardeola in Abu Dhabi., Sandgrouse, 14:1: 34 – 47.
  • Morris, R. P. , (1991), The birds of Abu al Abyadh., Emirates Bird Report, 15: 30 – 32.
  • Neelakantan KK;Sreenivasan KV;Sureshkumar VK; , (1980), The Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola) in Kerala, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 77:3: 508.
  • Nikolaus, G. , (1989), Status of the Crab Plover Dromas ardeola in the Sudan., Scopus, 12: 87.
  • P. PALMES and C. BRIGGS , (1986), Crab-plovers, Dromas ardeola, in the Gulf of Kutch, Forktail, 1: 21.
  • P. Pistorius & F. Taylor , (2008), Population status and conservation of Crab Plovers Dromas ardeola on Aldabra, Indian Ocean, Bulletin of the International Wader Study Group, 115:1: .
  • Palmes, P., C. Briggs. , (1986), Crab Plovers in the Gulf of Kutch., Forktail, 1: 21 – 28.
  • Parish, D., R. C. Prentice, C. E. Taylor. , (1986), Foraging behaviour of the Crab Plover., Interwader Publ., 16: 25.
  • Philip A. R. Hockey, Simon J. Aspinall , (1997), WHY DO CRAB PLOVERS DROMAS ARDEOLA BREED IN COLONIES?, Bulletin of the International Wader Study Group, 82: 38 – 42.
  • Ramadan E; Al-Nasrallah K; Gregory G , (2004), Bubiyan Island: a rich Kuwait avifauna., Sandgrouse, 26: 23 – 26.
  • RF Porter; S.Christensen; P.Schiermacker-Hansen , (2004), Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola), BIRDS OF THE MIDDLE EAST; Poyser, : 68.
  • Salim Ali; S Dillon Ripley  , (1980), No. 434. Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola ) Paykull , Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, Volume 2 (Megapodes to Crab Plover ): 337.
  • Sashikumar C; , (1990), Occurrence of some rare migrants in Cannanore, Kerala, Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 30:3-4: 7 – 8.
  • Sinclair JC; , (1976), Sight records of unusual birds from Colaba Point, Bombay, Maharashtra, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 73:3: 530 – 531.
  • SKAKUJ M, HIRSCHFELD E, LONTKOWSKI J & STAWARCZYK T , (1997), The second-calendar year plumage of Crab Plover Dromas ardeola., Sandgrouse, 19:1: 63 – 64.
  • Skakuj, M., et al. , (1997), The second calendar year plumage of Crab Plover Dromas ardeola., Sandgrouse, 19(1): 63 – 64.
  • Swennen, C., et al. , (1987), Foraging behaviour of the Crab Plover Dromas ardeola at Ko Libong, southern Thailand., Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society, 35: 27 – 33.
  • Uthaman PK;Namassivayam L; , (1991), The birdlife of Kadalundi Estuary, Blackbuck, 7:1: 3 – 11.
  • V.C. Soni & V.J. Bhuva , (2007), Feeding ecology of Crab Plovers Dromas ardeola in the Gulf of Kachchh, India, Bulletin of the International Wader Study Group, 113: .
  • Varu SN; , (1988), Some information on the shore birds of Kutch, Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 28:7-8: 13.
  • Verhage, M., A. Chapman, B. Brown. , (1990), Crab Plovers breed in the [Persian] Gulf., Phoenix, 7: 4 – 5.