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Discovering the Charming Double-banded Plover: Behaviors Ecology and Conservation

The Double-banded Plover, also known as Charadrius bicinctus, is a small bird species that is commonly found in New Zealand’s coastal areas. This adorable bird is about the size of a sparrow and is easily identifiable by its distinctive double breastband.


Field Identification

The Double-banded Plover is one of the smallest plovers in the world. They have a pale grey-brown back, wings, and head.

The species’ underparts are white, with two striking black breastbands. This plover’s bill is tiny, and the legs are black.

Similar Species

The Double-banded Plover closely resembles the Banded Dotterel. However, the Banded Dotterel has only one breastband as opposed to the Double-banded Plover’s two distinctive black bands.

Furthermore, the Banded Dotterel’s forehead and under-eye are white, while the Double-banded Plover has a dark eye mask.


Like many bird species, Double-banded Plovers undergo a molting process. During this process, birds shed their feathers and replace them with new ones.

The molt is a significant change in a bird’s appearance, and it is usually accompanied by a change in behavior. The Double-banded Plover has two primary plumages:

Breeding Plumage

The breeding plumage of the Double-banded Plover is more vibrant and striking than its non-breeding plumage. The underparts become an intense white color, while the back is covered in a warm, brown shade.

During the breeding season, males’ beaks take on a vibrant orange color, while females have a paler, yellow beak.

Non-breeding Plumage

In the non-breeding season, the Double-banded Plover’s feathers become noticeably duller. During this time, the species’ underparts become more beige, giving them a brownish hue.

Additionally, the birds’ beaks become less vibrant, changing from bright orange to a pale yellow color.


Double-banded Plovers go through two molts annually: The complete and partial molt.

Complete Molt

The complete molt, also known as the post-breeding molt, occurs in the summer months after the breeding season. It involves the bird shedding all of its feathers and replacing them with new ones.

During this process, the bird’s flight feathers are replaced, allowing them to fly more efficiently.

Partial Molt

The partial molt, also known as the pre-breeding molt, occurs in the winter months before breeding season. This process only results in the replacement of some of the birds’ feathers.


The Double-banded Plover, also known as Charadrius bicinctus, is a charming bird species that can be easily identified by its two striking black breastbands. This small bird undergoes two molts annually, a complete molt after breeding season, and a partial molt before breeding season.

Knowing these details can aid in understanding the behavior and appearance of this delightful bird species. If you ever have the chance to observe a Double-banded Plover, keep a keen eye out for its unique markings and appreciate this impressive species.

Systematics History

The Double-banded Plover, also known as Charadrius bicinctus, belongs to the family Charadriidae, a family of small to medium-sized birds. The Australian ornithologist, Gregory Mathews, first described the Double-banded Plover in 1912.

The species was then known as Charadrius bicinctus.

Geographic Variation

The Double-banded Plover is a common species in New Zealand’s coastal areas, and several variations of the species can be found throughout its range. One of the significant differences between variations of the Double-banded Plover is their size.


Several subspecies of the Double-banded Plover have been identified, including:

Charadrius bicinctus bicinctus: This subspecies is found in the coastal regions of New Zealand’s North and South Island. Charadrius bicinctus exilis: This subspecies is found in southeastern Australia, including Tasmania.

Charadrius bicinctus bryani: This subspecies is found on the Chatham Islands, east of New Zealand. Charadrius bicinctus chathamensis: This subspecies is also found on the Chatham Islands, east of New Zealand.

Related Species

The Double-banded Plover is closely related to other plover species, including the Hooded Plover, the Black-fronted Dotterel, and the Red-kneed Dotterel. The Hooded Plover, also known as Thinornis rubricollis, is a coastal bird found in southern Australia.

It is similar in size and plumage to the Double-banded Plover, but it has a distinctive black cap on its head. The Black-fronted Dotterel, or Elseyornis melanops, is found mainly in eastern Australia.

This bird is slightly larger than the Double-banded Plover and has a black forehead and cheek patch. The Red-kneed Dotterel, or Erythrogonys cinctus, is found in northern and eastern Australia.

This species has a more colorful plumage than the Double-banded Plover, with russet-colored wings and a bright orange bill.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The Double-banded Plover has a relatively stable distribution throughout New Zealand, although there have been historical changes to the distribution of the species. One of the most significant changes to the species’ range occurred in the early 20th century when the introduction of the Mammalian predator, the hedgehog, to New Zealand decimated populations of ground-nesting birds, including the Double-banded Plover.

The introduction of hedgehogs has caused a significant decline in Double-banded Plover populations, especially on offshore islands. Over time, conservation efforts and predator control programs have helped to restore populations, and the species has since recovered in many areas.

Another significant change in the distribution of the Double-banded Plover is caused by habitat loss and destruction. The species’ coastal habitat is under threat from urban development, coastal erosion, storm surges, and sand mining.

These threats reduce the availability of suitable breeding and foraging habitats for the species, reducing its range and population size. In summary, the Double-banded Plover is a small but distinctive bird species found in New Zealand’s coastal regions.

The species is known for its two striking black breastbands and has several geographic variations and subspecies. The Double-banded Plover has faced significant historical changes in its distribution due to introduced predators, habitat loss, and degradation.

Conservation measures and predator control programs have played a crucial role in restoring populations of this charming species.


The Double-banded Plover is most commonly found along New Zealand’s coastlines, where tidal streams, estuaries, and beaches provide ideal breeding and feeding grounds. The species prefers open spaces with little vegetation, where they can easily spot prey and predators.

Double-banded Plovers are commonly found in sandy or rocky habitats on beaches, either as individuals or in pairs. They also inhabit nearby grassy areas and other open spaces.

During the breeding season, Double-banded Plovers can be observed in estuarine habitats, where they nest and breed. Additionally, the species has been observed wintering on beaches, where they join flocks with other shorebirds.

The habitat requirements for Double-banded Plovers are crucial to the species’ survival, as they rely on specific habitats for breeding, foraging, and resting. The species’ habitat is under threat from various human activities, such as development and recreation, which can destroy or degrade their habitats.

Movements and Migration

The Double-banded Plover is a non-migratory species, with individuals remaining in New Zealand throughout the year. They are, however, a partial migrant, meaning that while the majority of the population stays in New Zealand, some individuals may move between habitats depending on seasonal and environmental conditions.

During the breeding season, Double-banded Plovers establish territories, and breeding pairs remain in their territories for the duration of the breeding season. After the breeding season, Double-banded Plovers undergo a partial molt, which may result in the species moving to different habitats to prepare for the next breeding season.

In winter, Double-banded Plovers are more mobile, moving between habitats to find the best sources of food and shelter. Some individuals may migrate between coastal habitats, while others may spend the winter in inland wetlands, moving closer to the coast during the spring and summer breeding season.

Studies have shown that habitat loss and degradation have had a significant impact on the movements of Double-banded Plovers. The species’ movements can be disrupted by human activities such as development, habitat destruction, and recreational activities.

The loss of habitat in one area can result in the birds moving to less suitable habitats, leading to reduced breeding success and population sizes. In conclusion, the Double-banded Plover is a non-migratory species that remains in New Zealand throughout the year.

However, they are a partial migrant, with individuals moving between habitats depending on seasonal and environmental conditions.

Habitat loss and degradation significantly impact the species by disrupting their movement patterns and reducing their access to suitable breeding and foraging grounds.

Conservation efforts are crucial in mitigating the threats posed by habitat loss and degradation, ensuring the continued survival of this delightful species.

Diet and Foraging


The Double-banded Plover is a small bird that feeds on invertebrates such as crustaceans, insects, and small mollusks. They also forage in shallow water to catch small fish.

The species’ feeding behavior is influenced by their habitat and tide patterns. During low tide, Double-banded Plovers forage on the intertidal zone, where they search for invertebrates such as small crabs and other crustaceans.

During high tide, the species move further up the beach, where they search for food on the sand.


The diet of the Double-banded Plover is heavily influenced by the availability of food. They generally feed on small invertebrates and some small fish, which they swallow whole.

During the breeding season, the species feed on snail shells, which provide calcium for eggshell formation. The species’ diet is also influenced by seasonality and tidal patterns.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Double-banded Plover has a high metabolic rate, which enables them to efficiently digest their food and maintain their body temperature. The species has a relatively high body temperature, which aids in digestion and helps them deal with low temperatures during the winter season.

Double-banded Plovers also have heat loss reduction mechanisms, such as counter-current heat exchange in their legs, which helps them retain heat in their bodies.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Double-banded Plover is a vocal species that produces several vocalizations with distinctive meanings. The species uses different calls during different situations, which enables them to communicate with other members of their species effectively.

Some of the vocalizations produced by the Double-banded Plover include:

Territorial Calls: During the breeding season, male Double-banded Plovers produce territorial calls, which enable them to establish breeding territories. The territorial call is a distinctive peeping sound that is repeated several times, warning off other males competing for the same breeding territory.

Alarm Calls: The species produces alarm calls, which alert other members of their species to the presence of predators. The alarm call is a shrill, high-pitched sound that is used to warn other members of the species to flee or take shelter.

Contact Calls: Double-banded Plovers produce contact calls to maintain contact with their mates and offspring. The contact call is a soft, low-pitched sound that is produced by males and females.

In conclusion, the Double-banded Plover feeds on small invertebrates such as crustaceans, insects, and small mollusks. The species has a high metabolic rate, which enables them to digest their food efficiently and retain heat in their bodies.

Double-banded Plovers are vocal species that produce several vocalizations to communicate with other members of their species effectively. Territorial calls are used during the breeding season to establish breeding territories, alarm calls to alert other members of the species to predator presence, and contact calls to maintain contact within family groups.



Double-banded Plovers are highly mobile birds that have adapted well to their coastal environments. They are typically seen walking along beaches, although they are also capable of running and carrying out short flights.

When foraging for food, the species is often seen running along shorelines, stopping intermittently to peck at prey. Double-banded Plovers also swim and dive in shallow water to catch small fish.

Self Maintenance

Like all bird species, Double-banded Plovers engage in self-maintenance activities such as preening, bathing, and sunbathing. Preening is an essential behavior for Double-banded Plovers as it helps to maintain their feathers, keeping them clean and healthy.

Bathing helps to remove dirt and debris from the bird’s feathers, while sunbathing helps to dry them off. These behaviors help the Double-banded Plover maintain its physical condition and protect itself from predators and weather.

Agonistic Behavior

Agonistic behavior refers to the aggressive displays and confrontations that birds engage in with each other. Double-banded Plovers can be highly aggressive and territorial during the breeding season when they are protecting their nests and young.

They engage in displays such as threats, bill-carrying, and wing-flapping. During aggressive encounters, Double-banded Plovers will often make loud vocalizations to intimidate rivals.

Sexual Behavior

Double-banded Plovers are monogamous species, with pairs forming for life. During the breeding season, the males establish territories, and females choose a mate based on the quality of their territory.

Courtship displays include males’ territorial calls and the offering of prey items to females. After mating, the pair constructs a shallow scrape in the sand where they lay their eggs.


The Double-banded Plover breeding season runs from August to February, with males arriving first to establish territories. Once the males have claimed their territory, they begin displaying to attract females.

During the breeding season, Double-banded Plovers are territorial and aggressive, using displays and vocalizations to defend their nesting sites. The species constructs a shallow scrape on the ground for their nest, which they line with small stones, shell fragments, or small pieces of vegetation.

The female lays between 1-3 eggs per clutch, and both parents take turns incubating the eggs. The incubation period lasts around 4 weeks.

After hatching, both parents care for and protect their young. The chicks are able to walk and feed themselves soon after hatching, but they are still vulnerable to predators.

They fledge at around 30 days old and become independent, although they may still stay with their parents for some time.

Demography and Populations

The Double-banded Plover has a stable population that is estimated to be around 65,000 individuals. However, the species faces several threats to its survival, including habitat loss and degradation, introduced predators, and human disturbance.

Conservation measures have been put in place to protect the species, including predator control programs on offshore islands and habitat restoration efforts. Double-banded Plovers are also protected under New Zealand’s Wildlife Act, which prohibits the disturbance, harm, or taking of the species.

In conclusion, the Double-banded Plover displays several behaviors, including locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic, and sexual behavior. The species is monogamous, and during the breeding season, males establish territories and display to attract females.

Breeding behavior includes nest construction, incubation, and parental care. The species has a stable population, although it faces several threats, such as habitat loss and degradation and introduced predators.

Conservation measures have been put in place to protect the species, ensuring its survival. The Double-banded Plover is a delightful bird species that is commonly found in New Zealand’s coastal areas.

This charming species stands out due to its distinctive double black breastbands. The species displays several behaviors such as aggressive and sexual behaviors during breeding season, while self-maintenance, locomotion, and foraging are consistent throughout their lifespan.

The Double-banded Plover also has an intriguing ecology, with a diet composed mostly of small invertebrates, a high metabolic rate, and a non-migratory lifestyle. Despite a stable population of around 65,000 individuals, the species is under threat from habitat loss, degradation and predation, hence conservation measures are crucial to ensure its protection.

By understanding the fascinating characteristics, behaviors, and threats to the Double-banded Plover, conservationists and bird enthusiasts alike can work towards preserving this species for generations to come.

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