- Colour: Olive-brown above, pale buff-grey to white below. White rear end of body ending in short, black-forked white tail. Legs are dark grey. Black line around the white-edged buff throat.
- Size: 23 – 24 cm.
- Call: Tern like “Kyik”.
- Diet: Although classed as waders they typically hunt their insect prey on the wing, like swallows, around dusk or dawn. They can also feed on the ground.
- Flight: Elegant in flight with easy fluid wingbeats, swoops and twists.
- Breeding: Breeds in Pakistan, India, parts of south-east Asia, China, Japan and Phillipines. Migrates to spend November to March in northern Australia.
What to Observe
ClimateWatch Science Advisor
Changes in rainfall in northern Australia may affect the insect population which is a prey for this species. Decreases in rainfall have seen increases in the grasshopper population and reports of record populations of Oriential Pratincole and other migrant waders in coastal areas.
When To Look
- Late October to early April, when it migrates to northern Australia.
Where To Look
- Large flocks can be found in northern Australia around plains, wetlands where clouds of insects accumulate and sometimes around bushfires or open areas around tidal flats, beaches and wetlands.
- Sometimes individuals and small flocks can be found in southern parts of Australia.
The map below displays the accumulated observations of these species as reported by ClimateWatch observers, together with the layer showing how the range of the species might change between now and 2085, with orange areas indicating where the species might disappear, and green areas where the species range might expand.
Morcombe M 2003. Field Guide to Australian Birds, Revised Edition. Steve Parish Publishing, Brisbane
Pizzey G & Knight F 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
Australian Pratincole (Stilitia isabella): has a similar shape but much longer legs, finer wingtips, warmer rufous-buff tones and spends more time on land.
Did You Know?
On the 7th of February 2004, 2.88 million Oriental Pratincoles were recorded on Eighty Mile Beach in Australia's north-west by the Australasian Wader Studies Group. Previously, the world population was thought to be around 70,000 and it is supposed that weather conditions caused much of the world's population of this species to congregate in one area.
It tends to squat low and well concealed in rough ground or small depressions including impressions from stock hooves.