Collared Pratincole (adult, non-breeding vagrant)
Bird Island | Seychelles
Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)
When you first see this species and watch its behaviour you wouldn’t think that it’s classified as a shorebird in the order Charadriiformes. It has a short neck, very short decurved bill, short grey legs, long pointed wings and a forked tail. Adult birds are a pale coffee-brown colour above with dark flight feathers and black tail, which contrasts with the white rump. It has a sandy buff throat, bordered black. In flight you see it has chestnut coloured underwings, white trailing edges on the secondaries and a deeply forked tail - these former features help distinguish it from the similar Oriental Pratincole. Non-breeding birds, like these, are slightly paler and have their throat bordered by a more broken black band.
They prefer edges of wetlands, mudflats or open fields rather the shoreline. Their food is mostly insects caught in flight, but they will catch prey on the ground or ‘leap’ up if something is flying past.
They breed from Southern Spain through Eastern Europe to Southern Russia, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa and India, occasionally turning up in Seychelles.
We first encountered this species on the island in 2013 when there was a solitary immature bird who, contrary to what I said earlier, spent all the time on the beach at the far end of the island. Last year there were a pair of birds that arrived about half way through our stay. This year there were four, which actually looked like two pairs, that were there for the whole duration of our stay. They could be found every morning and every afternoon on the airstrip. During the mornings they would just sit there in the sun, but in the afternoon, if the conditions were right with midges in the air, they would be flying and hunting. They provided plenty of flight shot opportunities, which was fortunate because it was like trying to photograph swallows!