Black-fronted Dotterel Click to enlarge image
Black-fronted Dotterel, Elseyornis melanops Image: Purnell Collection
Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    melanops
    Genus
    Elseyornis
    Family
    Charadriidae
    Order
    Charadriiformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    16 cm to 18 cm

The Black-fronted Dotterel is normally seen in small numbers, usually in pairs, sometime alone and rarely more than five. However in winter they can form larger groups of a hundred or more.

Identification

The Black-fronted Dotterel is a small wader with a distinctive black face-mask and breast-band and prominent chestnut scapulars (shoulder feathers). In juveniles, the breast-band is initially absent but a brown band slowly appears as the bird develops. Legs are pink orange, and the bill is red with a black tip. The dark eye is ringed with red. In flight the wings look broad and the tail short, while the black and white contrast is striking. Flight is slow with almost hesitant wing beats.

Habitat

The Black-fronted Dotterel is found in the shallow margins of wetlands, lakes, rivers, sewage farms, storm drains and marshes. It is normally always near freshwater and is not often seen on the coast.

Distribution

The Black-fronted Dotterel is widespread throughout Australasia.



Seasonality

Breeding resident.

Feeding and diet

The Black-fronted Dotterel eats small molluscs as well as aquatic and terrestrial insects. When it forages, it keeps its body horizontal while bobbing its head to look for food, often running then stopping suddenly to peck at food items.

Communication

Sharp 'tip' call, singular or repeated three or four times.

Breeding behaviours

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

  • Breeding season: September to February
  • Clutch size: Two to three
  • Incubation: 27 days
  • Time in nest: 25 days

Conversation status

The Black-fronted Dotterel is secure in Australia, though destruction of breeding sites may affect numbers.

References

  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian New Zealand And Antartic Birds Vol. 2: (Raptors To Lapwings). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Pringle, J.D. 1987. The Shorebirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Morcombe, M. 2000. Field guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing.
  • Simpson, K and Day, N. 1999. Field guide to the birds of Australia, 6th Edition.Penguin Books, Australia.