Common Ringed Plover Delights Birders With Gold Medal Performance

August 22, 2016
Comparing Semipalmated Plover with Common Ringed Plover

Yesterday may have been the last day of the Olympic Games in Rio but a Common Ringed Plover (CRPL), the first documented record for Ontario, at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto, Ontario stole the show, in my opinion, with its gold medal performance in front of an excited and delighted crowd of birders. This bird was originally found by Paul Prior on Saturday and fortunately for me it was still around cell #2 at the park on Sunday mid-morning when I arrived. I carried my Canon 800mm together with my Gitzo tripod and Wimberley Head over my shoulder for the half hour or so walk to the cell, which I can vouch didn’t do anything good for my back. Fortunately it was well worth carrying my gear for tthe hike as the Common Ringed Plover was still present.

Of interest to myself and I'm sure others, on August 17, a Common Ringed Plover was observed initially by Johanne Charente some 700 km from Tommy Thompson Park at RN de Pointe-Yamachiche, Maskinongé County (on Lac Saint-Pierre near Trois-Rivieres), Quebec and was last reported on August 18, so it is quite conceivable (dare I say likely) that the bird shown here is the same bird. Common Ringed Plover is primarily an Eurasian species, although it does breed on the northeast coast of Baffin Island, east Ellesmere Island, and Greenland (O’Brien, Michael, Crossley, Richard, Karlson, Kevin, 2006). It is virtually unrecorded in North America outside its breeding range and the population in North America is less than 10,000. Two subspecies are recognized. Hiaticula breeds from northeast Canada to western Europe while tundrae breeds from northern Scandinavia to Siberia and sometimes Alaska. If there are any experts out there that can identify the subspecies seen in these photos, I would be grateful for your feedback.

Based on the same reference material mentioned above, in fall migration Common Ringed Plovers depart for Europe and Africa.

Looking at the first photo comparison above, you can see a few of key differences between the two very similar species, Semipalmated Plover (SEPL) and Common Ringed Plover. SEPL has a yellow orbital-ring and its supercilium is not as wide as CRPL's. CRPL has darker and broader lores and its cheeks and broad breast-band are much blacker as shown in the photos here. Although a little difficult to tell from the above photos, CRPL's bill is longer and more tapered than SEPL's. Perhaps more easily illustrated in the above photos is that the upperparts of CRPL are not as warm as SEPL's.

The second photo comparison shows SEPLs led by a Baird’s Sandpiper on the left side and a CRPL (left) in flight being harassed by a Killdeer (right). The similarities between SEPLs and the CRPLs are many; however, the dark markings on the face, breast and rectrices are considerably darker in Common Ringed Plover.

The photo below shows a good profile view of CRPL. In addition to the characteristics mentioned above, note the bi-coloured bill with black tip and the lack of partial webbing between middle and outer toes, the latter of which is shown more clearly in a later photo below.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

I spent more two-and-a-half hours observing and photographing the Common Ringed Plover. During that time, the CRPL spent much of its time foraging on the mudflats. It occasionally approached the water’s edge, but I noticed that when it did, it did so briefly and would dip its beak once, but never more than twice in the shallow water and then quickly move back on to the mudflats.

There were a number of Killdeer nearby and I obtained several photos that show the size comparison between the two species. Additionally, there were some scuffles between the CRPL and at least one of the Killdeer present. The next few photos capture some of the exciting action. Fortunately none of the participants were harmed as the Common Ringed Plover did a good job of standing its ground and warding off its larger opponent.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

The photo below shows the CRPL foraging along a mud flat. The upperparts are a colder gray compared with Killdeer, which has warmer upperparts, especially the bright rufous rump, which is evident in some of the photos shown in this post.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

Here the CRPL takes flight after a Killdeer chases it. You can see the bold white wing stripes on the upper wings, which is typically brighter than you would find on a SEPL.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

In the photo below, a Killdeer flies overhead in an effort to chase the CRPL away, preferring the Common Ringed Plover to feed elsewhere, but the CRPL held its ground and continued to feed in the same area.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

The next image shows the CRPL and Killdeer squaring off. The crowd favourite was the Common Ringed Plover, but I must admit to being concerned about the outcome considering the difference in size between these two individuals.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

Here the Killdeer attacks the Common Ringed Plover from above. The bright rufous rump of the Killdeer shows well here and you can almost see the look of concern on the Common Ringed Plover’s face.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

To me it appears as if the CRPL is using its left wing to shield itself from attack.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

Here we see another instance of a Killdeer chasing away the CRPL.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

 

This last photo provides the best view, in my opinion, of the toes of the Common Ringed Plover, which are not webbed like those of SEPL.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

The image below shows a good view of the CRPL’s forehead, crown, neck, mantle and scapulars.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

I enjoy capturing a bird’s behaviour and this wingspread below is always enjoyable to observe.

Common Ringed Plover - Tommy Thompson Park, Toronto, Ontario
1/1000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 1D X, Canon 800mm +1.4x tc

New Gallery Photos Added                       Gallery

Common Ringed Plover                             Lapwings and Plovers

 

References:

O’Brien, Michael, Crossley, Richard, Karlson, Kevin, 2006. The Shorebird Guide, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York

 

Happy Birding,

Claude

Semipalmated Plover (L) - Common Ringed Plover (R)

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