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Red-capped plover, Charadrius ruficapillus

Red-capped plover
Red-capped Plover (Photograph by F. Dowling)


The Red-capped Plover is a small (140 - 160mm), plump and active wader with white underparts and forehead, and pale, sandy-brown upperparts.

The adult male has a rufous crown, nape and incomplete band running to the sides of the breast during the breeding season. The female is paler and missing the dark breast patches. Young birds are similar but paler than the adults.

The legs and the short bill are black. The flight feathers are dark and a clear white wing bar and white outer tail is noticable in flight.

The Red- capped Plover is similar to the non-breeding Lesser Sand or Mongolian Plover, C. mongolus, and the non-breeding and juvenile Double-banded Plover, C. bicinctus, which are also found in Tasmania. The red cap of the male is diagnostic.

The Red-capped Plover is also called the Red-capped Dotterel in Tasmania. Red-necked Dotterel, Sand Lark and Sand Piper are other names given to the species. Such a diversity of common names is not uncommon among living things, and reveals the value of a unique scientific name.


The Red-capped Plover is found in pairs or small groups  along sandy beaches, coastal lagoons, estuaries, bays and inland saline wetlands. It is often seen running on rapidly moving legs along beaches to stay ahead of observers.


The Red-capped Plover feeds mainly on small invertebrates, such as molluscs, crustaceans and worms.


Breeding occurs from July/August to March. The nest is a shallow scrape on a beach or stony area, sometimes lined with small shells or dead leaves. Two to three eggs are laid. The eggs are yellowish-brown, irregularly spotted with black, and are usually well camouflaged. The incubation period last 30 days and is mainly done by female.


The Red-capped Plover has a range of calls: a rapid trill, shrill alarm call and a plaintive, "tik".


Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania
The Red-capped Plover is widespread throughout Australia. It is a vagrant in New Zealand.

In Tasmania, it is found on most coasts, being most common in the north and east and King and Flinders Island. It is also found on inland lagoons at high altitudes in the Central Plateau.

Although the Red-capped Plover is secure in Australia, nesting birds are vulnerable to dogs, beachgoers and off-road vehicles.