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9

Red-capped Plover

(Charadrius ruficapillus)
Alternate name(s): "Red-capped Dotterel"; misnomers: "Sandlark", "Sandpiper*"
Size: 14-16 cm; wing span 27-34 cm
Weight: 30-45 g

Similar
species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Red-capped Plover at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

ADULT

MALE

Close-up frontal view of a male Red-capped Plover looking sideways; note the black loral stripe
(photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Lake Clarendon, QLD, November 2018]

Close-up near-frontal view of a male Red-capped Plover
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Near-frontal view of a male Red-capped Plover in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[The Entrance, NSW, December 2023]

Near-lateral view of a male Red-capped Plover looking towards the observer
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

Near-lateral view of a male Red-capped Plover
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a male Red-capped Plover (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Lake Clarendon, QLD, November 2018]

Lateral view of a male Red-capped Plover (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Buffalo Creek beach, Darwin, NT, August 2020]

Lateral view of a male Red-capped Plover in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[The Entrance, NSW, December 2023]

Lateral view of a male Red-capped Plover; click on image to see the bird as part of a small flock
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, May 2012]

Lateral and near-dorsal views of male Red-capped Plovers (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Broadwater, Gold Coast, QLD, March 2019]

Near-dorsal view of a male Red-capped Plover with a broken leg
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, December 2023]

Near-dorsal view of a preening male Red-capped Plover
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Dorsal view of a male Red-capped Plover with a deformed bill (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Broadwater, Gold Coast, QLD, March 2019]

Near-frontal comparison between Red-capped Plovers (male right; female centre) and a Black-fronted Dotterel (left)
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, May 2012]

Lateral view of 3 small waders in flight: Male Red-capped Plover, right, female centre, and Red-necked Stint, left
[Lee Point beach, Darwin, NT, August 2014]

FEMALE

Close-up frontal view of a female Red-capped Plover; note the rufous-grey loral stripe that widens under the eyes
(photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boodjidup Beach, WA, December 2016]

Frontal view of a female Red-capped Plover (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Fraser Island, QLD, September 2018]

Close-up near-frontal view of a female Red-capped Plover
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Lateral view of a female Red-capped Plover (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Fraser Island, QLD, September 2018]

Lateral view of a female Red-capped Plover
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

Lateral view of a female Red-capped Plover (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Lake Clarendon, QLD, November 2018]

Dorsal view of a female Red-capped Plover (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Broadwater, Gold Coast, QLD, March 2019]

Dorsal/ventral view of a female Red-capped Plover (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Fraser Island, QLD, September 2018]

Dorsal view of a female Red-capped Plover in flight (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, May 2012]

PAIR

BREEDING

Frontal/lateral view of a pair of Red-capped Plovers, female in front, male in breeding plumage
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Lateral view of a pair of Red-capped Plovers, male in front in breeding plumage
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-frontal view of a juvenile Red-capped Plover
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Near-frontal view of a juvenile Red-capped Plover; note the all grey-brown cap and nape of the neck
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Near-lateral view of a juvenile Red-capped Plover
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Lateral view of a juvenile Red-capped Plover, left (note the scalloped upperparts), immature(?) Red-capped Plover, far left, adult male in front and Red-necked Stint on the right
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Near-dorsal view of an immature Red-capped Plover; note the still partly white lores (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Broadwater, Gold Coast, QLD, March 2019]

Near-dorsal view of a resting juvenile Red-capped Plover
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Near-lateral view of a Red-capped Plover chick (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[The Entrance, NSW, December 2023]

Female Red-capped Plover in dull plumage protecting its two young chicks under its wings (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Buffalo Creek beach, Darwin, NT, July 2020]

Female Red-capped Plover in dull plumage with one of two young chicks (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Buffalo Creek beach, Darwin, NT, July 2020]

The two Red-capped Plover chicks under mum's care (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Buffalo Creek beach, Darwin, NT, July 2020]

Female Red-capped Plover in dull plumage attending to its young chick (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Lee Point beach, Darwin, NT, August 2017]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Dec Eggs: 3 - 5 Incubation period: 31 - 33 days Fledging age: N/A

Ekanayake et al. (Proc Biol Sciv. 282(1806) May 2015) determined that pairs of Red-capped Plovers (or birds living in open habitats such as beaches in general) tend to divide both incubation and dependent care duties in such a way that the one with the dullest (and therefore most cryptic) plumage is in attendance during the day (when visual predators are active), while the bird with the more colourful plumage takes over the night shift.

Nest building: N/A Incubation: Female & male Dependent care: Female & male

Nest

"bungobittah", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Scrape Material: Sandy or rocky soil Height above ground: N/A

Overview of a Red-capped Plover nest in wheat chaff
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Red-capped Plover nest with a full complement of 2 eggs (photo courtesy of D. Dyer)
[Ronsard Bay, Cervantes, WA, September 2020]

Female Red-capped Plover seen incubating the eggs in the nest shown above (photo courtesy of D. Dyer)
[Ronsard Bay, Cervantes, WA, September 2020]

Frontal view of a male Red-capped Plover at its nest site
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Male Red-capped Plover sitting down to incubate its clutch of 2
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Lateral view of a female Red-capped Plover on its nest
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Female Red-capped Plover on its nest (photo courtesy of R. Brinsley)
[Samphire flats near Venus Bay, Eyre Peninsula, SA, October 2015]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "mirk", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena", "pum-pum" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 37 x 27 mm Colour: Creamy, copious mid- to dark-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Close view of a Red-capped Plover nest with a full complement of 2 eggs
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Overview of a Red-capped Plover nest with 2 eggs (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[The Entrance, NSW, December 2023]

Close-up view of a Red-capped Plover nest with 2 eggs (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[The Entrance, NSW, December 2023]

Red-capped Plover nest with 2 eggs (photo courtesy of D. Dyer)
[Ronsard Bay, Cervantes, WA, September 2020]

Red-capped Plover nest with 2 eggs in it (photo courtesy of R. Brinsley)
[Seaweed bank at James Well, Yorke Peninsula, October 2018]

Behaviour

Social behaviour: ? Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Pair/group

Red-capped Plovers are one of the bird species that pretend injury to distract intruders and lure them away from either nest or chicks.

Close-up frontal view of a female Red-capped Plover pretending to have a broken wing (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boodjidup Beach, WA, December 2016]

Another female Red-capped Plover doing a "broken wing routine" (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Lee Point beach, Darwin, NT, July 2017]

Female Red-capped Plover trying to distract the observer (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Lee Point beach, Darwin, NT, July 2017]

Female Red-capped Plover trying to distract the observer (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Lee Point beach, Darwin, NT, July 2017]

Like many other waders, Red-capped Plovers prefer to evade disturbances by running along the waterfront, rather than flying away.

Male Red-capped Plover noticing the photographer
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

Then the Red-capped Plover turned sideways...
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

... and walked around the observer along the shore of a salt marsh
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

Near-dorsal view of a female Red-capped Plover showing the photographer a clean pair of heels
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

Red-capped Plover are very fast runners
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Flock of Red-capped Plovers hiding in plain view, on accumulated wheat chaff
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

"Find that bird"! Flock of Red-capped Plovers hiding in plain view, on accumulated wheat chaff (click on image for larger version [14 MB!]; there should be about 24 birds in the field-of-view)
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, April 2022]

Food, Diet

Red-capped Plovers dig small animals out of sand, as seen in the photo below.

Female Red-capped Plover with its prey, a small insect
[Goran Lake, near Gunnedah, NSW, February 2022]

Near-dorsal view of a Red-capped Plover trying to gulp down its prey
[Near Old Bar, NSW, June 2011]

Male Red-capped Plover digging up a meal from the sand (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boodjidup Beach, WA, December 2016]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

redcplv_20220218_2.m4a (NW NSW) Contact calls? © MD
redcplv_20220218_4.m4a (NW NSW) Contact calls? (in-flight) © MD
redcplv_20220218_3.m4a (NW NSW) Warning call © MD
redcplv_20190619.m4a (NW NSW) Warning calls © MD
redcplv_20220218.m4a (NW NSW) Warning calls and territorial calls © MD
redcplv_pb_20210123_2.m4a (Darwin, NT) Several birds interacting © PB
redcplv_pb_20210123.m4a (Darwin, NT) Various (departure & in flight) © PB

More Red-capped Plover sound recordings are available at xeno-canto.org .

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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