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Welcome to Birdata 21 August 2014

Double-banded Plover: Following a Well-worn Path

Mike Weston

When watching small shorebirds foraging on the mudflats, it sometimes seems almost unbelievable that some have migrated to Australia from thousands of miles away. Many of these birds, some weighing little more than a box of matches, have flown from Siberia or elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, having been funnelled towards Australia along the 'East Asia Flyway'. Others have arrived from not quite so far away, but have, nevertheless, flown great distances.

One such bird is the Double-banded Plover. This small, plump wader flies across the Tasman Sea each autumn to spend the winter in eastern Australia, where it is a familiar sight to wader-watchers.

Double-banded Plovers breed on shingle banks in the beds of the braided rivers which snake across New Zealand, as well as on ocean beaches and elsewhere near the coast. When breeding has finished, most of the birds that have bred in inland or highland areas fly across the Tasman Sea to spend the winter foraging on mudflats and estuaries in eastern Australia, usually arriving in March or April. Many are still in their breeding plumage, with broad bands of blackish, white and rich chestnut across the breast. After a while, these fade to a greyish smudge.

When in Australia, Plovers often associate with other shorebirds, especially Red-capped Plovers and overwintering Red-necked Stints, roosting among beachcast seaweed or in low saltmarsh, or foraging on sand or mudflats. They occur in coastal and subcoastal areas, mostly from Hervey Bay in south-eastern Queensland to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, as well as most of the Tasmanian coastline; a few also venture inland, especially in western Victoria. Outside this range, they are occasionally recorded west to the Eyre Bird Observatory on the shores of the Great Australian Bight, and north to the Wet Tropics. They stay until August or September, when they return to New Zealand.

The accompanying map shows that, while in Australia during winter, Double-banded Plovers mostly occur along the eastern and southern coasts.

If you want to discover more information about this species or any other birds that occur in Australia, just follow this link and you can explore BirdLife Australia's Atlas of Australian Birds.

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