Glareolidae – Pratincoles & coursers

You can easily confuse the birds from this family for a wetland species even though they are 100% terrestrial

This family encompasses a group of birds known as pratincoles and coursers, which are distinct among shorebirds for their terrestrial life habits. These birds are typically associated with open environments ranging from semi-deserts to grasslands and are found across many parts of the world, particularly in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Pratincoles and coursers have adapted to a unique ecological niche. While they are structurally similar to other shorebirds, with long legs and strong flight capabilities, pratincoles have evolved to become specialist aerial feeders. They are often seen gracefully swooping over rivers and lakes, catching insects in flight with their wide, gaping mouths. This feeding strategy is connected to their habitat preferences, which usually include significant bodies of water like large rivers or inland lakes.

Coursers, on the other hand, are more closely associated with arid environments. They are ground-dwelling birds that run rather than wade, and they typically hunt for insects on dry, sandy soils. Their plumage often reflects their habitat, with earthy tones that provide camouflage against the ground.

Pratincoles, such as the Australian Pratincole (Stiltia isabella), often choose to nest and live near water, even in desert environments. For example, the Australian Pratincole is a desert-dwelling bird that typically nests within a mile of a water body, ensuring that it has access to the insects that emerge near these habitats.

In terms of reproductive behavior, Glareolidae members usually lay their eggs on the ground, making simple nests that are little more than scrapes in the soil. Their eggs and chicks are well camouflaged to protect them from predators.