Glareolidae – Coursers & Pratincoles
The Glareolidae are a family of birds in the wader suborder Charadri. It contains two distinct groups, the pratincoles and the coursers. The atypical Egyptian plover (Pluvianus aegyptius), traditionally placed in this family, is now known to be only distantly related.
The family contains 17 species in 4 genera.
The feature that defines the family from the rest of the order is the bill, which is arched and has the nostrils at the base. The pratincoles have short legs, long pointed wings and long forked tails. They have a buoyant flight that allows them the unusual (for the order) hunting technique of taking their insect prey on the wing like swallows. The wings also allow for long migrations in some species. The coursers have long legs, which are used to run (giving the group its name. The wings are shorter and have a more sustained flight than that of the pratincoles.
The coursers are crepuscular and nocturnal in their habits, and are generally inconspicuous, particularly the woodland species. They are not as social as the highly gregarious and noisy pratincoles, some species of which may also active at dawn and dusk.
Insects form the majority of the diet of the Glareolidae. The pratincoles forage mainly on the wing, but are able to take prey on the ground as well. They are opportunistic, and have been recorded attending herds of antelope to snatch insects flushed up by their movement, or even insects attracted to street lights. Swarming insects, such as locusts or termites, are particularly targeted. Coursers are exclusively terrestrial, and feed in a plover-like fashion, running, then stopping to scan for prey before moving on. Some species may dig for insects win soft soil with their bills. In addition to insects coursers may also take molluscs and some seeds.
The pratincoles and coursers have an Old World distribution, occurring in southern Europe, Asia, Africa (including Madagascar), and Australia. The family is thought to have evolved in Africa, which is where the family achieves its greatest diversity.
The IOC considered there to be 17 species in this family, which are:
Cream-colored Courser Cursorius cursor
Somali Courser Cursorius somalensis
Burchell’s Courser Cursorius rufus
Temminck’s Courser Cursorius temminckii
Indian Courser Cursorius coromandelicus
Double-banded Courser Rhinoptilus africanus
Three-banded Courser Rhinoptilus cinctus
Bronze-winged Courser Rhinoptilus chalcopterus
Jerdon’s Courser Rhinoptilus bitorquatus
Australian Pratincole Stiltia isabella
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum
Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni
Madagascan Pratincole Glareola ocularis
Rock Pratincole Glareola nuchalis
Grey Pratincole Glareola cinerea
Small Pratincole Glareola lactea
Number of bird species: 17
Shorebirds(WorldLife Library) by Des Thimpson, Ingvar Byrkjedal 2001 ISBN: 1841070750 Buy this book from NHBS.com
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