Heuglin's Courser at Lake Baringo by Lorenzo Barelli

Shorebirds to Coursers in East Africa

Order Charadriiformes – Shorebirds has a large variety of birds from small to large. Most of them live near water, but some inhabit forest or even deserts. Some are pelagic which means living in the open sea. They feed on invertebrates and other small animals. Since a good number are migrants, they have long, sharp ending wings. To keep the feathers functioning they bath in fresh water and apply the oily secretion from the preen gland. Here we introduce up to Coursers.

We are splitting the Order Shorebirds – Charadriiformes into several pages due to the large number of species. 

Crab Plover – Family Dromadidae. It is in discussion if they belong to the order Charadriiformes. It is a unique bird inhabiting the shores of the Indian Ocean. They breed at the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Somalia. In Kenya and more South they are visitors and often found in large flocks. They feed on crabs. They use the warm of the ground to incubate their eggs.

Oystercatcher – Family Haematopodidae has only one genus Haematopus. They are birds living along the ocean shores feeding on Polychaeta worms to oysters and other creatures found along the beaches.

Jacana or Lili Trotter – Family Jacanidae they are tropical birds. Characteristic are the long toes and toe nails to enable them walking on swimming plants on lakes. Special is that the females are larger and fight for the best males. It is the males raising the chicks.

Thick-knee or Stone-Curlews or Dikkop – Family Burhinidae. It is a family of the tropical region and warmer regions. Most are residents exept the Eurasian Thick-knee which spends the Northern winter in Africa. They are nocturnal and are well camouflaged at day time when standing still. They feed on insects and other invertebrates.

Pratincoles and Coursers – Family Glareolidae, Suborder Lari. It is thought  that the family has evolved in Africa. The shape of the bill defines this family in the order Shorebirds – Charadriiformes. Pratincoles have short legs, long pointed wings and long forked tails. They can catch insect in flight like swallows. They can be gregarious and noisy, some are nocturnal and some migrate long distances.

Coursers are in their own Subfamily Cursoriinae

Coursers have long legs. Coursers like running on the ground hence the name. Most species are crepuscular or nocturnal. Coursers feed on invertebrates, snails and lizards which they catch running after them.
Both breed on the ground and the young are precocial.

Some Coursers are among the tricky birds to find but we shy no effort to track them down for you.

For example at Lake Baringo we have spotters who trace the Heuglin’s Courser and other bird, snake and scorpion species which are hard to find for us. So you just enjoy seeing and photographing them by driving and walking short distances.
Click on the photo for larger view. The names of the photographers are on the photo and in the text. Those without name are from Elvira Wolfer.

To give you as actual information as possible we use Avibase, the books “Birds of South of the Sahara”, “Birds of East Africa”, “Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania”. Then we put the most characteristic information to the photo.

You can also follow us on Facebook “Bird photography Safaris Kenya” and see the numerous species as well as the beautiful photos from Lorenzo Barelli.

Due to the different habitats the shorebirds to coursers inhabit you won’t find them at the same place. Travelling or several visits concentrating on some species are required and advised. Some are found at the coast and others far inland. But if you have the chance we take you to different places with enough time to search for the species you would like to see.

Birding Kenya Central & West Safari 13 days

Kenya bird watching safari 13 days Nairobi to coast

Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola) is a special bird feeding on crabs along shores or in creeks along the Eastern African coast. Photos taken at Mida Creek

Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus o. ostralegus) spends the Northern summer at Iceland, Scandinavia and Southern Europe. They are uncommon migrants to African coasts. Photo Marina Meger

African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus) is widespread at waters with vegetation in Africa.

Lesser Jacana (Microparra capensis) is found at ponds, swamps and lakes with vegetation South of the Sahara. It is an uncommon resident and local nomad. Photo Marina Meger

Senegal Thick-knee (Burhinus senegalensis) where it occurs it is a resident and intra-African migrant from East to West Africa. In Kenya the most Southern place to sometimes find it is Lake Baringo. They prefer sandy areas usually near water. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Eurasian Thick-knee (Stone Curlew) (Burhinus o. oedicnemus) is an uncommon migrant from the North between October and March. It is often found near water.

Water Thick-knee (Dikkop) (Burhinus v. vermiculatus) it is mostly found in pairs or small groups near rivers and lakes with cover. They are common and widespread.

Spotted Thick-knee (Dikkop) (Burhinus c. capensis) are mostly found in pairs in various open habitats. Widespread.

Collared (Red-winged) Pratincole (Glareola pratincola fuelleborni) is an intra African and palearctic migrant. Sometimes they can be found in large flocks near water. Widespread in Africa. The smaller subspecies erlangeri occurs along the coast of Somalia and N Kenya. Picture is taken at Lake Turkana

Black-winged Pratincole (Glareola nordmanni) breeds in Romania to SW Russia and Kazakhstan. The North winter is spent in Southern Africa and they pass through Western Uganda and Rwanda. Very few records are from Kenya. Status: near threatened. Photo Per Holmen

Madagascar Pratincole (Glareola ocularis) breeds on Madagascar and migrates to the coast from Somalia to Tanzania from March to September. They can be found in estuaries and coastal plain wetlands. Status: near threatened. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Rock Pratincole (Glareola nuchalis nuchalis or torrens) is found in Western Kenya, Uganda, Ruanda, Ethiopia and farther South. Rocky areas along large rivers are their habitat. Photo Per Holmen, Murchison Falls, Uganda

Temminck’s Courser (Cursorius t. temmincki) inhabits dry, sparsely grassed or recently burnt areas from West to East Africa. The subspecies ruvanensis is found in Uganda to Tanzania. Left by Jacques Pitteloud, Masai Mara, nominate, right by Per Holmen, Tanzania subspecies ruvanensis

Somali Courser (Cursorius somalensis littoralis) is a locally common nomad from Somalia to Northern Kenya and Tsavo region. Habitat: semi-arid grass plains. Endemic to the Horn of Africa and Kenya. Photo Per Holmen

Double-banded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus gracilis) in semi-arid and desert plains, likes stony areas. This subspecies is endemic to Kenya and Tanzania.

Three-banded (Heuglin’s) Courser (Rhinoptilus c. cinctus) occurs in arid and semi-arid savanna. It is largely nocturnal and hides during day time. It is not a common bird and best to see at Lake Baringo. The nominate form is found from South Sudan to Tanzania, the subspecies balsaci from Southern Somalia to NE Kenya.

Bronze-winged (violet-tipped) Courser (Rhinoptilus chalcopterus) can be found in woodland and savanna from West to East and Southern Africa. It is nocturnal and hide under bushes during daytime, so easily overlooked. Intra-African migrant and fairly common resident. Photo Per Holmen