Black-winged pratincole -- 黑翅燕鸻 (Glareola nordmanni)

Black-winged pratincole in habitat
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Black-winged pratincole fact file

Black-winged pratincole description

GenusGlareola (1)

In appearance this bird may be fairly unremarkable, but the black-winged pratincole is notable for the incredible migrations it undertakes. Its plumage is brown tinged with olive, with a white belly and rump. As its name suggests, the wings are black, as is its deeply forked tail. The pale yellow throat is bordered by a narrow black band, and the black bill has a small patch of red at the base. Juvenile black-winged pratincoles differ from adults by their mottled blackish plumage and their dull white throat lacks the black border (2).

Glaréole à ailes noires.
Length: 23 – 26 cm (2)
84 – 105 g (2)

Black-winged pratincole biology

Often found in enormous flocks of hundreds or even thousands of birds, the insectivorous black-winged pratincole forages for grasshoppers, crickets, swarms of locusts, beetles, ants, wasps, bees, dragonflies and many more flying insects. It usually hunts in early morning and late evening, capturing most of its food while flying, but also by running swiftly along the ground after prey (2).

It migrates huge distances, leaving its Eurasian breeding grounds in September for southern Africa. In its winter range it is nomadic, following swarming insect prey, until it travels the great distance back, arriving in its breeding area again in April and May (2). In the Black Sea region, the black-winged pratincole breeds from March to July, nesting on open ground in colonies consisting of hundreds of pairs. The nest is a simple scrape, lined with a few dry plant pieces. Clutches of three to four eggs are incubated by both parents and five to six weeks after hatching the chick is independent (2).


Black-winged pratincole range

The black-winged pratincole has a large breeding range, from Romania, east through Ukraine to south-west Russia and north Kazakhstan. It migrates to southern Africa, where it spends winter in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and occasionally in West Africa (2) (4).


Black-winged pratincole habitat

In its breeding range, the black-winged pratincole inhabits dry, salted soils, with sparse vegetation and batches of bare ground, overgrazed pastures and occasionally ploughed fields (2) (5). It always occurs close to rivers, lakes, wet meadows or the sea (2). In southern Africa, the black-winged pratincole can be found in high altitude grassland or low-lying mudflats (2)


Black-winged pratincole status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix II of CMS (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Black-winged pratincole threats

Populations of the black-winged pratincole have been declining since the end of the 19th century, with the population declining sharply in the 1990s, particularly in southern Russia (5). These declines are thought to be due to the extensive ploughing of their breeding habitat for the development of arable agriculture and increasing numbers of corvids, (the crows, magpies and ravens), which are predators of the ground-nesting pratincoles (5). While some grazing is essential in maintaining the pratincole's optimum habitat, overgrazing can be detrimental through the trampling of eggs and chicks (5). As well as the loss of its breeding habitat, the black-winged pratincole may be affected on its wintering grounds by the use of pesticides (2), and agricultural practices and grassland degradation which may have reduced the area of suitable habitat (4).


Black-winged pratincole conservation

The black-winged pratincole is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) (3), under which the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) was developed, which calls upon party countries to engage in a wide range of conservation actions for birds dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle (6). The black-winged pratincol is listed on Annex 2 of AEWA (6), resulting in the publication of a conservation action plan, which details actions required to stabilise or increase populations of this species (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

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  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2007)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CMS (December, 2007)
  4. BirdLife International (December, 2007)
  5. Belik, V.P. and Lebedeva, E.A. (2004) International single-species action plan for the conservation of the Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni. AEWA Secretariat, Bonn, Germany.
  6. AEWA (December, 2007)

Image credit

Black-winged pratincole in habitat  
Black-winged pratincole in habitat

© Paul F. Donald, RSPB

Paul F. Donald


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