St. Helena Plover

The St. Helena Plover (Charadrius sanctaehelenae), locally known as the Wirebird due to its thin legs, is a small wader endemic to the island of Saint Helena. Kittlitz’s Plover is the St. Helena bird’s closest relative. The bird was first mentioned in 1638, and is the national bird of Saint Helena, featured on the island’s coat of arms. This plover is resident all year on the open areas of Saint Helena, and it is thought that the widespread deforestation on the island, while generally harmful for the island’s ecosystem, has in fact benefited this particular species, since it lives in open clearings in the forest.

St. Helena Plover numbers have been fluctuating, but in general the trend was downward since at least the 1970s. Feral cats and accidentally introduced rats, as well as the introduced Common Mynas which eat the eggs, are believed to be play a significant role in the decline of this species’ population. Only some 200-220 adult birds are believed to remain.

As a consequence of its dire status and uncertain prospects, the St. Helena Plover is up-listed to Critically Endangered with extinction in the 2007 IUCN Red List. There are currently projects underway led by the RSPB to monitor the birds and try to stop their decline.

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