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|Kaur Wetlands, the Gambia|
The Egyptian plover (Pluvianus aegyptius) is a wader, the only member of the genus Pluvianus. Formerly placed in the pratincole and courser family, Glareolidae, it is now regarded as the sole member of its own monotypic family Pluvianidae.
The Egyptian plover is a localised resident in tropical sub-Saharan Africa. It breeds on sandbars in very large rivers. 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 smooths 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.
Egyptian plover is a striking and unmistakable species. The 19–21 cm long adult has a black crown, back, eye-mask and breast band. The rest of the head is white. The remaining upperpart plumage is blue-grey, and the underparts are orange. The longish legs are blue-grey.
In flight, it is even more spectacular, with the black crown and back contrasting with the grey 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.
This usually very tame bird is found in pairs or small groups near water. It feeds by pecking for insects. The call is a high-pitched krrr-krrr-krrr.
Supposed relationship with crocodiles
The bird is sometimes referred to as the crocodile bird because it is famous for its alleged symbiotic relationship with crocodiles - quoted by National Geographic in 1986. 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.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Pluvianus aegyptius". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Philadelphia Zoo - Egyptian Plover profile
- Adam Britton (2009-09-06). "Croc Blog: Crocodile myths #1 - the curious trochilus". Crocodilian.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
- Hayman, Marchant and Prater, Shorebirds ISBN 0-7099-2034-2
- Richford, Andrew S., and Christopher J. Mead (2003). "Pratincoles and Coursers". In Christopher Perrins (Ed.). Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 252–253. ISBN 1-55297-777-3.
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