Physical characteristics: The collared pratincole is 8.7 to 9.8 inches (22 to 25 centimeters) in length and weighs between 2.1 and 3.7 ounces (60 to 104 grams). It is a smoky gray-brown color on the back and pale on the belly. During the breeding season, there is a yellow patch on the throat surrounded by a thin black collar. The bill is red at the base and black elsewhere. Collared pratincoles have slender bodies, short legs, and long wings.
Geographic range: The collared pratincole is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, with isolated breeding populations scattered in portions of Europe and Asia.
Habitat: The collared pratincole occupies habitats between short-grass grasslands and deserts. It is also found in seashore areas with semi-desert conditions.
Diet: Collared pratincoles eat primarily insects, which they catch in flight or grab from the ground. Grasshoppers and beetles make up the bulk of their diet.
Behavior and reproduction: Collared pratincoles are found in large flocks during both the breeding and nonbreeding seasons. They tend to spend time feeding in the air, and then rest on the ground for periods of time. They scrape a shallow indentation in the ground for a nest, sometimes lining it with pieces of vegetation. Females lay three eggs in the species' European and Asian breeding grounds, but only two in African habitats. Eggs are incubated, or sat upon, by both parents. Eggs hatch after seventeen to nineteen days. Both parents feed the chicks. Chicks are able to fly after about one month.
Collared pratincoles and people: The eggs of collared pratincoles were once collected in large numbers by humans for food. In the past, collared pratincoles also helped control locust plagues by eating large numbers of insects.
Conservation status: The collared pratincole is not considered threatened at this time. However, numbers have declined due to the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, as well as habitat destruction and disturbance by humans. ■
Australian pratincole (Stiltia isabella)
Resident Breeding Nonbreeding
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