Blacksmith Lapwing (Plover) (Vanellus armatus)
The Blacksmith Plover is a medium sized lapwing bird approximately 12 inches long. It is a strikingly patterned bird with red eyes, and very long legs. The long legs enable it to move very quickly across the open moist landscapes enjoyed by the creature. Both sexes are alike having primarily black and white plumage with a tinge of occasional gray. This bird has a white belly, a white nape patch on the top and side of its head, and white under the wings. The rump and tail of the Blacksmith Plover are white with a bit of black. The rest of the animal is black. The Blacksmith Plover has a spur on both wings buried in it’s plumage which is used for fighting and protection. (Kindersley, 1993).
Distribution and habitat:
The Blacksmith Plover is distributed throughout southern and eastern Africa. It has recently extended it’s range and now breeds south to Cape Town, South Africa. The Plover inhabits the dry ground beside rivers, lakes, dams, ponds, lagoons, waterholes and sewage farms.
The Blacksmith is an assertive, conspicuous but wary creature. When the Blacksmith Plover is disturbed it makes a very loud metallic sounding "clink, clink" that resembles the sound of someone hammering a piece of metal. These Plovers are usually found alone or in pairs but will occasionally congregate with other plovers and fly in a flock.
The Blacksmith Plover spends most of its time during the day at lakes and marshes with muddy banks where it feeds on insects, worms, snails, seeds, small mollusks, and crustaceans. There have been scattered reports over the past 2,500 years of the Blacksmith Plover feeding near and in the mouths of crocodiles. The Blacksmith Plover plucks parasites from the backs of the reptiles as they bask in the sun. The Blacksmith will even enter the mouth of the crocodile to pick remnants of food from between the teeth or leeches from the lining of the mouth (Burton, 1985). The Blacksmith Plover is a monogamous territorial bird.
Breeding and nesting:
While the Plover is in non-breeding it will form pairs or be part of a group. With the advent of breeding the birds begging to court each other. The courtship ceremony involves the birds running around in a straight up posture, getting very excited, calling, perhaps picking up an object and shaking it around, bowing, and turning the head from side to side. They will later pair off and may copulate. This continues while the birds are still in flocks and goes on until just before the eggs are laid (Brown, 1982).
Both sexes of the Blacksmith Plover participate in building the nest. The Blacksmith Plover builds its nest on the ground using its body to dig the hole. This procedure is called the nest-scrape. The Blacksmith Plover lays one to four eggs each time. Incubation by both parents begins after the last egg is laid and lasts about 23 – 31 days. One of the parents must sit on the eggs at all times in order for them to hatch. The parents relieve each other every 20 – 80 minutes.
Blacksmith Plover chicks weigh approximately 16.5 oz at birth. The chicks leave the nest within just a few hours. The babies depend on their instinctive response to the parents call and their ability to camouflage themselves for survival. They can make themselves almost invisible with their plumage and remain motionless until any danger has passed.
All info taken from the website of the Honolulu Zoo