August in Malaysia
by Martin G and Simon Buckell
Less than a week ago SB had the first arrival of juvenile Sand Plovers at Mersing in NE Malaysia. It was a chance to compare to very similar juvenile Greater Sand Plovers with a juvenile which appeared to be a Lesser- of the expected group ‘atrifrons’ as opposed to ‘mongolus’ – which really, of course, is better classified as a separate species ; )
Separating Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers has never been easy. The juvenile plumage in these 2 birds is extremely similar. So it’s chiefly down to overall structure in the field and bill shape. Interesting although not always reliable, the leg colour is different too (tends to be more frequently black in the atrifrons group than mongolus group).
Juvenile Greater Sand Plover
Juvenile Lesser Sand Plover
Check out the difference in bill shape between Greater (above) and Lesser (below)- especially how much of the mandible (most obviously on upper) is ‘bulbous’.
Juveniles of the atrifrons group are more similar to juvenile Greater Sand Plovers in plumage than juveniles of the mongolus group. In the Mongolian Sand Plover (i.e mongolus group) the juveniles have crisp white fringes to upperrparts, usually more obvious breast band and in c 60% of birds, obvious dark feathering along the flanks.
All photos by Simon Buckell (blog), Mersing, Malaysia, 8th August 2012