The Black Fronted Dotterel

This Black-fronted Dotterel was photographed in the bed of the Finke River in Central Australia. These dotterels are a common sight along the edge of waterholes right across the country. They can be spotted in freshwater wetlands, around the edges of lakes and billabongs, and in shallow, temporary claypan pools, and occasionally around saline mudflats and estuaries.

These small waders have a very distinctive black mask like face and breast band with a red rimmed eye, red beak with a black tip and pinky coloured legs.

Their trilling and peeping calls always remind me of the rivers of the Centre. 

The Black-fronted Dotterel lays its eggs in shallow often on pebbly ground close to water. It may have more than one brood per year. Both parents incubate the eggs and look after the young.

Image © Neil Fitzgerald by Neil Fitzgerald www.neilfitzgeraldphoto.co.nz

Believe it or not, the one in the top image is nesting. There are two oddly uniform ‘rocks’ underneath this bird, which blend beautifully into the surrounds. If it wasn’t for the parent protecting them, they would be extremely difficult to spot. Many waterbirds nest right on the ground, using camouflage to blend in and stay safe. If a threat gets too close, they will try and distract whatever might be approaching. 

Once the chicks hatch, they look like tiny, fluffy versions of their parents running around within a very short period after hatching.

Words and images by Gareth Catt.

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