During my aborted trip to the Hebei coast last week, one of the birds with which I enjoyed a close encounter was this juvenile sandplover. The recovery from my appendectomy gave me some time to examine the photos and video to try to work out the identification. I found this bird tricky. It wasn’t particularly long-legged, the ‘bulge’ on the culmen wasn’t very pronounced (suggesting Lesser) but the overall gait – including the horizontal stance – suggested Greater. I was confused. So I sent this image to Dave Bakewell who has lots of experience with sandplovers and has written extensively about them on his excellent Dig Deep blog.
His view is that this bird is a juvenile Greater. Why? This is what he said:
“Not surprised you are struggling with this one! I do find that leg colour is more reliable as a feature for juvs than adults. And, although the bill may not be fully grown (affecting the proportion of the swollen culmen), I do find the tip shape very helpful – slender and more pointed on GSP and blunter on LSP. By now you will know what I think it is! Despite the apparent dumpy, short-legged, round-headed shape, I think this is a very young juv GSP.”
Just when I thought I was getting to grips with sandplovers, I encounter a bird that makes me think again… and that’s what makes birding such a brilliant hobby – always so much to learn!
Here is some video of the same bird, just edited from footage I took last week.
Please let me know what YOU think!
EDIT: Dave Bakewell kindly sent me a link to a similar-aged juvenile Lesser Sandplover (of the atrifons group). You can see it here. It’s a darker plumaged bird overall with noticeably darker legs, darker centres to the coverts and showing a subtly different bill shape.