Magellanic Plover, Pluvianellus socialis, a shorebird on a class of its own

Magellanic Plover, Pluvianellus socialis is the sole member of family Pluvianellidae, and despite its name it is not really related to true Plovers, Charadriidae, but closer to Chionidae, the Sheathbills. However, it wasn’t until 1975 that it was separated from Plovers and placed into its own monotypic family, Pluvianellidae and genus, Pluvianellus.

Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider
Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider

Some authors have suggested placing it within the Sheathbill family, but several morphological and behavioural traits separate it from that group, such as the use of a crop to carry food to the chicks, the slight asymmetry of the bill, and the use of the feet to dig in the ground for food.

A medium-sized shorebird, the shape of its body recalls a small dove or seedsnipe more than a plover. Generally found along the shores of shallow saline lakes and lagoons with rocky and muddy shores, very exposed to the wind, with variable water levels. Also on rocky coasts, especially during migration periods.

Magellanic Plover © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
Magellanic Plover © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions

It can be easily overlooked due to its extremely cryptic colouration, especially as it blends with the pebbles that are commonly part of their habitat, and finding it usually involves a fair amount of time and patience, trying to discern its minute shape among vast extensions of pebbles and stones in the shores of Patagonian water bodies.

© Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
© Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions

Territorial, normally in pairs or family groups. Also associates with other plovers and sandpipers, like Two-banded Plover, Rufous-chested Dotterel and Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers. Forms flocks during migration and winter.

Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider
Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider

Endemic to Patagonia, local and partially resident in the extreme south of Chile and Argentina, in Chile restricted to Magallanes district, and it is classified as Near Threatened (NT) in the IUCN Red List.

Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider
Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider

Striped Woodpecker, Veniliornis lignarius, Torres del Paine NP, Patagonia, Chile

Perching on a dead branch, a female Striped Woodpecker Veniliornis lignarius looks for insect larvae in Torres del Paine NP, Chilean Patagonia. The smallest of Patagonian woodpeckers, it is found around the edge of Nothofagus southern beech stands.

Striped Woodpecker, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Striped Woodpecker, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Andean Flamingo, Phoenicoparrus andinus, Antofagasta, Chile

Extending its diagnostic yellow legs, an Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus alights in the shallow water of a high-altitude pond in the Andes near San Pedro de Atacama in Antofagasta, Chile. The largest of South American flamingos, it is restricted, as its name implies, to salt lakes, ponds and bogs in the high plateau or Altiplano of the central Andes.

Andean Flamingo, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Andean Flamingo, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

 

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Attagis gayi, Antofagasta, Chile

Emitting a loud contact call, a Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe Attagis gayi takes off from the boggy soil near a stream in the high Andean plateau east of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, at 4,500m above sea level. Largest of all four Seedsnipe species, it is found in arid high elevations in the Andes Mountains in South America.

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe,  Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Tawny-throated Dotterel, Oreopholus ruficollis, Pali Aike NP, Magallanes, Patagonia, Chile

A solitary Tawny-throated Dotterel Oreopholus ruficollis pops up from behind lichen-covered volcanic stones in the steppe of Pali Aike NP in Magallanes, Chilean Patagonia. A handsome and rare shorebird with its orange throat patch and streaked back, it occupies open, arid habitats mostly along the Pacific slope of the Andes mountains, from seal level to more than 4,000m in altitude.

Tawny-throated Dotterel, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Tawny-throated Dotterel, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinus, Arica, Chile

Perched on a wig and alert to any flying-by insects to catch, a male Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinus gleams like a scarlet gem under the sun of the Atacama Desert coast north of Arica, Chile. One of the most visible of tyrant flycatchers, it feeds by catching insects both on the wing and on the ground.

Vermilion Flycatcher, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Vermilion Flycatcher, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

 

White-bellied Seedsnipe, Attagis malouinus, Magallanes, Patagonia, Chile

Looking like a little ptarmigan in its utterly cryptic plumage which renders it invisible when not moving, a White-bellied Seedsnipe Attagis malouinus strolls around while feeding in the early morning light on its wintering grounds in the Patagonian steppe north of Punta Arenas, Magallanes, Chile. One of only four species in family Thinocoridae, it has the most restricted range of all, being found only in southern Patagonia. Despite its looks, it is related to Shorebirds, not to grouse or quails, and one of the familly treats is the presence of fleshy flaps covering the nostril openings.

White-bellied Seedsnipe,  Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
White-bellied Seedsnipe, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Southern Royal Albatross, Diomedea epomophora, Drake Passage, Antarctica

Gyrating with majestic ease over the waves of the Drake Passage between Cape Horn and Antarctica, an adult Southern Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora glides past our ship during the crossing of this stormy seaway. Largest of albatrosses, with a wingspan of more than 3.5m it is also the longest-winged bird in the planet.

Southern Royal Albatross, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Southern Royal Albatross, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Ornate Tinamou, Nothoprocta ornata, Putre, Chile

Stretching its neck to peep above the bush and grass cover, an OrnateTinamou Nothoprocta ornata briefly looks for potential danger before moving on while feeding about the grassy hills north of Putre in Arica, northern Chile. A medium-sized Tinamou of pretty secretive habits, it is restricted to the pre-puna zone in the foothills of the Andes.

Ornate Tinamou, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Ornate Tinamou, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

 

 

Snowy Sheathbill, Chionis alba, Gerlache Strait, Antarctica

A silent look passes between a Snowy Sheathbill Chionis alba and its chick at their nest located in a gap between boulders in an island in the Gerlache Strait, Antarctica. Mostly scavengers, Snowy sheathbills live on any organic debris they may find, but will also prey on marine invertebrates like limpets, amphipods and worms in the intertidal zone.

Snowy Sheathbill, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Snowy Sheathbill, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions