Black-fronted dotterel

black-fronted dotterel

Black-fronted dotterel from Gregory Mathews' The Birds of Australia 1910-28.

Black-fronted dotterel

I saw my first black-fronted dotterel recently near Boggy Pond, Lake Wairarapa.

Lovely bird, the bright red orbital ring its most distinguishing feature. Unlike many other wading birds, black-fronted dotterels retain the same plumage all year round, which makes identification easier.

Birds do keep on coming here from Australia, this one, apparently a bird of inland Australia, where they are quite widespread, arriving here in the 1950s. They first colonised the Hawkes Bay, the first sighting being in 1954, then spread to the Manawatu, the Wairarapa and across Cook Strait to Marlborough and South Canterbury in the late 1960s. It is a welcome addition to our native fauna.

They have come to breed here on the shingle river beds  of the eastern and southern North Island, south of Wairoa and Wanganui, and are found in increasing numbers on the shingle beds of the rivers of the South Island. Some birds remain on their territory all year round while others form large groups over the winter. Eggs are laid from August to February, the nest being a shallow depression often lined with pebbles and other detritus. The eggs are stone coloured closely marked all over with fine spots and lines of umber and grey.

B.D. Heather describes the black-fronted dotterel's feeding habits as observed around the Greytown sewerage ponds at the juncture of the Waiohine and Ruamahanga Rivers: “(it) is a freshwater feeder which prefers the fine silty mud freshly exposed by falling river and pond levels. Normally it feeds in the typical plover manner by picking from the surface, with its legs straight, pivoting from the hips. In some mud conditions it probes to a depth about half the length of its bill, which corresponds roughly to the extent of the black tip of its bill. While feeding, it walks carefully and quietly, picking as it goes, without the conspicuous run-and-stop, pick, run-and-stop, pick, of the commonest New Zealand plover, the banded dotterel.”

Greytown, Wairarapa, 2005.

black fronted dotterel
Kingdom: Animalia.
Phylum: Chordata.
Class: Aves.
Order: Charadriiformes.
Family: Charadriidae.
Genera: Charadrius.
Species: melanops.
Sub Species:  
Other common names:  —

Elseyornis melanops, crescent plover.

Description:  — 

Native bird

17cm, 33g; forehead black, crown brown, white band in front of and above the eye, a black line from nape to eye and a black band extending backwards from eye, around the neck and across breast; bill orange tipped with black; iris brown with bright red orbital ring; feet flesh coloured; bill 15, wing 106, tail 56, tarsus 25mm.

Where to find:  — 

Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Wairarapa, Marlborough and South Canterbury.

Illustration description: — 

Mathews, Gregory, The Birds of Australia 1910-28.

Reference(s): — 

Heather & Robertson Field Guide, 2000.

Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.

Heather, B.D., Notornis, Volume 24, Part 1, 1977.

Page date & version: — 

Monday, 28 August, 2023; ver2023v1