Caspian Plover – A Winter Rarity in India

Prateik Kulkarni
Sriram Ramachandran

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

The Caspian Plover breeds in open grasslands in Central Asia, to the North and East of the Caspian Sea. Historically, the Caspian Plover has been treated as a vagrant to the Indian subcontinent but recent sporadic sightings indicate that the bird could be “less rare and overlooked”.

The mudflats near Panje village near Uran, Navi Mumbai are known to be a favourite stopover destination for many uncommon migratory birds, so we visited the place to try our luck.

Our day began with listening to the calls of Rain Quails and the sighting of a beautiful Jacobin Cuckoo followed by the usual sightings – Prinias, Bulbuls, Munias, and waders like Sandpipers, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Stints and Lapwings. Further on the trail, along the dry mudflats, we observed a few waders, one of which seemed a bit different and larger than the rest. We observed this solitary bird in greater detail as it seemed unusual. It was larger than the other plovers with brown coloured upper parts, a thick white supercillium and brownish legs. Its behaviour was like a classic plover/lapwing; it kept running across the mudflats and feeding in little ponds. We initially thought it was a White-tailed Plover (spotted in Uran earlier in the month) and so we took enough pictures to be able to ID the bird correctly.

Looking through the images we ruled out Grey, Pacific Golden as well as White-tailed Plovers. Looking closer and getting help from birding experts across forums, it was narrowed down to Oriental or Caspian Plover, both unusual visitors to this part of India. To confirm the ID, we needed to get the underwing patterns. So I headed back the next day and managed to get a video of the bird in flight. The white underwing-coverts and narrow white wing-bar allowed the experts to conclude that it was indeed a Caspian Plover.

The Caspian Plover breeds in open grasslands in Central Asia, to the North and East of the Caspian Sea. Historically, the Caspian Plover has been treated as a vagrant to the Indian subcontinent but recent sporadic sightings indicate that the bird could be “less rare and overlooked”.

Another great record for the region and a special lifer for us!

References:
Conservation India: Sighting of Caspian Plover, Koonthankulam, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu.
Indian Birds Vol. 6 No. 6: Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus at Tal Chhappar: first record for Rajasthan.

About the author

Prateik Kulkarni

Prateik is a Mumbai-based marketing professional and a birdwatcher having special focus on the birds of Western Ghats.



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