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Egyptian Plover

The Egyptian Plover (Pluvianus aegyptius), is a wading bird and the only member of the genus Pluvianus. The Egyptian Plover is a localized resident in tropical sub-Saharan Africa. It breeds on sandbars in large rivers.

Egyptian Plover is a striking and clearly identifiable species. The 7.5 to 8.25 inch long adult has a black crown, back, eye-mask and breast band. The rest of the head is white. The remaining upper plumage is blue-gray, and the underparts are orange. The longish legs are blue-gray. In flight, it is even more spectacular, with the black crown and back contrasting with the gray of the upperparts and wings. The flight feathers are brilliant white crossed by a black bar. From below, the flying bird is entirely white, apart from the orange belly and black wing bar. After landing, members of a pair greet each other by raising their wings in an elaborate ceremony that shows off the black and white markings. The sexes are similar, but juveniles are duller and the black marking are intermixed with brown.

Its two or three eggs are not incubated, but are buried in warm sand, temperature control being achieved by the adult sitting on the eggs with a water-soaked belly to cool them. If the adult leaves the nest, it smoothes sand over the eggs, though if it is frightened the job may be hasty. The chicks are precocial, and can run as soon as they are hatched and feed themselves shortly afterwards. The adults cool the chicks in the same way as with the eggs. The chicks may drink water from the adult’s belly feathers. The adults bury the chicks in the sand temporarily if danger threatens.

This usually very tame bird is found in pairs or small groups near water. It feeds by pecking for insects (and perhaps, rarely, by extracting fragments of meat from between crocodile teeth). The call is a high-pitched krrr-krrr-krrr.

The Egyptian Plover is also sometimes referred to as the Crocodile Bird because it is famous for an unconfirmed symbiotic relationship with crocodiles. According to a story dating to Herodotus, the crocodiles lie on the shore with their mouths open, and the plovers fly into the crocodiles’ mouths so as to feed on bits of decaying meat that are lodged between the crocodiles’ teeth. The crocodiles do not eat the plovers, as the plovers are providing the crocodiles with greatly-needed dentistry. Two prominent ornithologists have supported this story anecdotally, but the behavior has never been authenticated.

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Egyptian Plover


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