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Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus

This species is listed as Vulnerable because it has a small population which is believed to be undergoing a continuing decline owing to pressures on its wetland habitats.

Taxonomic source(s)
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

14 cm. A smallish, long-legged coastal plover. Crown and back mid-brown with paler feather fringes, giving mottled appearance, flight-feathers darker. Blackish eyestripes join on the lores, and are divided from the crown by a long narrow pale supercilium, joining on the nape and forehead. Underparts are whitish washed variably with orange, with a fairly wide black breastband. Long legs and feet pale grey. Similar spp. From White-fronted Plover C. marginatus and Kittlitz's Plover C. pecuarius by the strong black breast-band and from Ringed Plover C. hiaticula by the supercilium that circles the crown, the longer, duller greyish legs and paler, more mottled upperparts. Hints Occurs in coastal areas, especially in salt lagoons, shallow muddy pans behind mangroves, alkaline grassland near lakes and pools, and sandy estuaries, where it picks small invertebrates from the surface in typical plover fashion.

Distribution and population
Charadrius thoracicus occurs somewhat uncommonly between Boanamary of Mahajanga on the north-west coast (Morris and Hawkins 1998) and Tapera of Tolagnaro in south-eastern Madagascar Goodman et al (1997), where recent surveys confirmed a total of 15 breeding sites, including Tsimanampesotse National Park (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). It is usually found in groups of 2-10, but occasionally up to 50 individuals are seen together (Morris and Hawkins 1998, (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). It favours saline lagoons and sandy coasts and estuaries, for example the Tambohorano wetlands, salt lagoons around Morombe and the Tsiribihina estuary (47 individuals seen in March 1998, ZICOMA 1998), and open alkaline grassland around Lake Tsimanampesotse (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). More than 60-100 pairs bred at Tsimanampesotse each year between 2005 and 2007 (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). Nesting is also concentrated at Marambitsy Bay where 24 nests were located between 2002-2005 (Zefania et al. 2008), while 61 individuals have been seen on the mudflats at Bemoramba in Maintiramo (ZICOMA 1998). In January 1971, one was seen near Antananarivo and in 1985 it was infrequently reported from the east coast near Manakara (ZICOMA 1999). Its total population has been estimated to number 750-6,000 individuals (F. Hawkins in litt. 2002 to Wetlands International 2002), however this was not based on systematic surveys (Dodman in litt. 2006), and more recently it was estimated at c.3,100 individuals (Long et al. 2008) through the modelling of observed densities at suitable sites across an estimate of the total area of habitat above a defined suitability threshold (Zefania et al. 2005, Long et al. 2006).

Population justification
The population has recently been estimated at 3,100 ±177; 396 (SE) individuals through the modelling of observed densities at suitable sites across an estimate of the total area of habitat above a defined suitability threshold. The standard error range is rounded to the nearest 100 and used as the population range estimate: 2,700-3,500 individuals, roughly equivalent to 1,800-2,300 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population of this habitat specialist, which exhibits low productivity and inflexible breeding behaviour (S. Zefania et al. in litt. 2007), is suspected to be declining in line with levels of habitat loss and degradation. The likely rate of population decline has not been estimated.

Behaviour This species is sedentary (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). It is usually found in pairs or small groups (Johnsgard 1981), although larger groups sometimes form at roosting sites, often alongside other plover species (Langrand 1990). The largest group recorded consisted of 33 birds (Johnsgard 1981, Langrand 1990). Nests can be found between August and May, but the most important breeding period is from December to April, with a peak in February at Tsimanampesotse (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). Habitat It is generally found at, or near to, sea level. Typically this species prefers drier areas than Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius, and avoids flooded grasslands (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding It breeds in areas of dry short, grazed grassland and Salicornia (Johnsgard 1981) near to the coast or around bodies of saline water including alkaline lakes, and brackish pools or lagoons. Non-breeding Roosts occur on sand spits facing the sea or a lake, or on sand dunes covered with creeping vegetation (Langrand 1990). It forages on intertidal mud, the open mud area of mangroves (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Morris and Hawkins 1998, S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007), and silty areas at river mouths, often in association with other coastal plover species (Johnsgard 1981, del Hoyo et al. 1996). Diet Its diet is poorly known, but it is thought to feed on invertebrates, mainly insects (Langrand 1990, del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding Site Its nest is a small scrape made in dry grassland (Morris and Hawkins 1998). Clutches of two eggs are most common, with some containing one (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). The incubation period is 27.3 ± 0.8 days, followed by a fledging period of 30.5 ± 2.5 days; hatching success has been recorded as 22.9%, with fledging success recorded as 41.41% (Zefania et al. 2008). Overall nest success was 9.49% in 2005. Adult survival rate is 0.79 and juvenile survivorship is 0.32 (Zefania et al. 2008).

It may be vulnerable to egg collection locally, but most of the population lives in remote areas that have low human population densities (ZICOMA 1999), and the nests are difficult to find and rarely searched for (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). Modifications of its wetland habitat on the west coast of Madagascar represent an increasing threat. This is still limited, and has recently involved the local development of shrimp farms in the Baly Bay and Besalampy area (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). Competition with Kittlitz's Plover C. pecuarius and/or White-fronted Plover C. marginatus has been suggested as a possible threat, but there is little or no evidence for this (ZICOMA 1999). The species may be particularly vulnerable to the aforementioned threats, as it exhibits low productivity, inflexible breeding behaviour and is a habitat specialist (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007, Zefania et al. 2008).

Conservation Actions Underway
It is found in two protected areas (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007), including Lake Tsimanampetsotsa, an important site for the species, and Baly Bay National Park (Morris and Hawkins 1998). However, in general, mangroves, wetlands and coasts have little legal protection in certain parts of Madagascar (ZICOMA 1999). Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out regular surveys in order to monitor population trends, monitor the ringed populations at Tsimanampesotse, Mahavavy delta and Marambitsy bay, and continue to ring and monitor populations at other important breeding sites (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). Conduct population viability analysis (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). Monitor the loss and degradation of the species's habitats. Collect data on the species's behavioural ecology, including its mating system and competition (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). Investigate the reasons for its rarity, and study important and potential threats, including nest predation (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007). Evaluate the possibility of competition with other Charadrius species (Morris and Hawkins 1998). Increase public awareness of protected areas and include unprotected breeding sites in new protected areas (S. Zefania, T. Szekely and P. Long in litt. 2007).

Collar, N. J.; Stuart, S. N. 1985. Threatened birds of Africa and related islands: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Cambridge, U.K.

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

Goodman, S. M.; Pidgeon, M.; Hawkins, A. F. A.; Schulenberg, T. S. 1997. The birds of southeastern Madagascar. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL.

Johnsgard, P. A. 1981. The plovers, sandpipers and snipes of the world. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, U.S.A. and London.

Langrand, O. 1990. Guide to the birds of Madagascar. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Long, P. R.; Zefania, S.; ffrench-Constant, R. H.; Szèkely, T. 2008. Estimating the populaton size of an endangered shorebird, the Madagascar plover, using a habitat suitability model. Animal Conservation 11(2): 118-127.

Long, P. R.; Zefania, S.; Szekely, T. 2006. Estimating Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus population size using a habitat suitability model. Wings without borders: IV North American Ornithological Conference, October 3-7, 2006, Veracruz, Mexico, pp. 197. American Ornithologists' Union, Waco, TX, USA.

Morris, P.; Hawkins, F. 1998. Birds of Madagascar: a photographic guide. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.

Wetlands International. 2002. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Zefania, S.; ffrench-Constant, R.; Long, P. R.; Székely, T. 2008. Breeding distribution and ecology of the threatened Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus. Ostrich 79(1): 43-51.

Zefania, S.; Long, P.; Szekely, T.; ffrench-Constant, R. 2005. Modelling habitat suitability for the Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus (poster). Annual Conference of the International Wader Study Group, Knockadoon Head, Cork, Ireland, October 2005, IWSG, Thetford, U.K.

ZICOMA. 1999. Zones d'Importance pour la Conservation des Oiseaux a Madagascar.

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Dodman, T., Hawkins, F., Long, P., Szekely, T., Zefania, S.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Charadrius thoracicus. Downloaded from on 20/04/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/04/2014.

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.

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Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Madagascar plover (Charadrius thoracicus)

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Charadriidae (Plovers)
Species name author (Richmond, 1896)
Population size 1800-2300 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 11,100 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species