Dromas – Crab-plover

This bird has learned how to use a spear and made it an extension of itself

It is a monotypic bird family containing only one species, the crab plover. This unique species of wader is remarkable for its distinct appearance and specialized lifestyle, which is closely tied to coastal environments.

The crab plover is an unmistakable bird characterized by its strikingly black and white plumage. Most of its body is covered in white feathers, while its back and the primary feathers of its wings are black, creating a stark contrast that is particularly visible in flight. The bird’s large head and massive bill, measuring between 5 to 6.5 cm, give it a gull-like appearance when observed from a distance. Its eyes are large and black, set on either side of its head, providing a wide field of vision essential for locating prey along the shoreline.

With a greyish tail and bluish-grey long legs that are well adapted to wading in shallow waters, the crab plover also has partially webbed toes, an adaptation that is unusual among waders but aids in swimming. Both males and females exhibit similar plumage, making sex differentiation challenging in the field.

Crab plovers inhabit a variety of coastal environments, including rocky shorelines, sandy beaches, intertidal flats, estuaries, lagoons, and exposed coral reefs. They are particularly associated with areas that support a healthy population of crabs, which constitute a significant portion of their diet. Their strong, curved bill is perfectly adapted for digging crabs out of the sand and breaking open their shells.

During the breeding season, crab plovers may venture further inland to sand dunes, where they nest in burrows. This burrowing behavior is another unique aspect of their ecology, as most wader species build nests above ground. The burrows provide protection from predators and a stable temperature environment for the eggs and chicks.