email a friend
printable version
Crab-plover  Dromas ardeola
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Behaviour Many individuals migrate southwards between August and November and return northwards between March and April, although over much of its range the species is present in fluctuating numbers throughout the year (Hayman et al. 1986). It breeds from April to August in dense colonies (Hayman et al. 1986), nesting in burrows set close together (del Hoyo et al. 1996) in sandy islets or dunes (Hayman et al. 1986). The species usually feeds singly or in loose groups, flocks occasionally foraging together on mudflats or in shallow water (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and gathering at communal high-tide roost sites (Hayman et al. 1986). Most of the species's activities occur in the early morning and late afternoon (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat The species inhabits sandy coastlines and islands, intertidal sandflats and mudflats, estuaries, lagoons and exposed coral reefs (del Hoyo et al. 1996), specifically requiring sandy islands or extensive dunes up to 1 km inland in which to excavate nesting burrows (Hayman et al. 1986). Diet Its diet consists predominantly of crabs as well as other crustaceans, small molluscs and marine worms (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is an unlined chamber at the end of a burrow 100-250 cm long excavated into the sandy substrate (del Hoyo et al. 1996) of an island or extensive coastal dune system (Hayman et al. 1986). The species nests colonially, with many burrows set close together in a honeycomb arrangement (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

The species is threatened by future oil spills (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005) and the potential introduction of nest predators onto breeding islands (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The planting of mangrove stands over bare substrates in some areas may also reduce the availability of nest sites (Hockey et al. 2005). Utilisation Eggs and young of the species used to be collected from nesting colonies, a practice which may still occur (Hockey et al. 2005).

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hayman, P.; Marchant, J.; Prater, A. J. 1986. Shorebirds. Croom Helm, London.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Dromas ardeola. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Crab plover (Dromas ardeola) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Dromadidae (Crab-plover)
Species name author Paykull, 1805
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 348,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change