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The Amazing Adaptations and Survival Secrets of Burchell’s Courser

Burchell’s Courser: The Desert SprinterHave you ever seen a bird sprinting like an athlete across the desert sands? Meet the Burchell’s Courser! This small and energetic bird is found in the deserts of southern Africa, where it uses its long legs for rapid sprinting while hunting for insects.

In this article, we will introduce you to this amazing bird and explore its identification, plumages, and other interesting facts.


Field Identification

The Burchell’s Courser is a small bird, approximately 24-26 cm in length, with a wingspan of up to 57 cm. The bird has long legs that are adapted for sprinting across the desert.

The primary feathers of the wings are long and pointed, and the tail is short and rounded. The head and neck are buff-colored, with a white stripe above the eye and a black stripe below it.

The back and wings are brown, with a distinctive white patch on the back when the bird is in flight. The breast and belly are white, with brown speckles.

Similar Species

The Burchell’s Courser may easily be confused with other species of courser birds, including the Temminck’s Courser and the Double-banded Courser. However, the Burchell’s Courser can be distinguished from these species by its buff-colored head and neck, black stripe below the eye, and the presence of a distinctive white patch on its back during flight.


The Burchell’s Courser has only one plumage, which is the adult plumage. The bird is sexually monomorphic, meaning that both males and females look alike.


The Burchell’s Courser undergoes a complete molt once a year, usually after the breeding season. During the molt, the bird sheds its old feathers and grows new ones.

This process can take several weeks, during which the bird may be less active than usual.

Interesting Facts

– The Burchell’s Courser is named after William John Burchell, an English explorer who traveled extensively in southern Africa in the early 19th century. – Burchell’s Coursers have unique billing behavior where they will peck prey in the sand a number of times before killing and consuming it.

– The Burchell’s Courser may become inactive during the hottest part of the day but can be seen sprinting around again late afternoon and early evening. – The Burchell’s Courser is listed as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN Red List, with an estimated population of over 100,000 individuals in its range across Africa.

In Conclusion

The Burchell’s Courser may be small but it is packed with unique characteristics that make it an interesting bird to behold. Its notable movements along the desert sands, its one-of-a-kind billing behaviour, and its distinctive identification features are sure to capture the attention of any bird enthusiast.

Systematics History,

Geographic Variation, and

Historical Changes to Distribution of the Burchell’s Courser

The Burchell’s Courser, also known as the Rufous Courser, is a bird species endemic to dry and arid regions of southern Africa, including Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. This article will delve into the systematics history, geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to distribution of the Burchell’s courser.

Systematics History

The Burchell’s Courser belongs to the family Glareolidae, which consists of six genera and 17 species of ground-dwelling wading birds. The species name rufus refers to the bird’s reddish-brown coloring.

The species was first described by John Latham in 1790, who named it Cursorius rufus. The Burchell’s Courser was later named in honor of the English explorer William John Burchell, who first collected the species in Africa in the early 19th century.

Geographic Variation

The Burchell’s courser has significant geographic variation, particularly in color and size. Individuals from the southern and eastern parts of its range are significantly smaller and paler than those from the northern and western parts.

The species’ size ranges from 22-28 cm with wingspans of 55-60 cm. Northern birds generally have a redder and more contrasting brown and white patterning on their upperparts than southern birds.

The species has a white eyebrow and facial markings that vary with the overall coloration of the individual.


The Burchell’s courser has three recognized subspecies:

– Cursorius rufus rufus: This subspecies is found in southern, central, and eastern parts of the species’ range, including Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. – Cursorius rufus australis: This subspecies is found in the southern parts of the species’ distribution, including South Africa and Botswana.

– Cursorius rufus damarensis: This subspecies is found in the northwestern parts of the species’ range, including Angola and northern Namibia.

Related Species

The Burchell’s Courser is closely related to the Heuglin’s Courser and the Cream-colored Courser. The Heuglin’s Courser, Cursorius heuglini, is found in eastern Africa and is very similar in appearance to the Burchell’s Courser, although it is generally more rufous and more heavily streaked on its upperparts.

The Cream-colored Courser, Cursorius cursor, is found in the Sahara and Arabian Peninsula, and is paler with a white body and buffy wingtips.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Historical records indicate that during the 19th century, the Burchell’s Courser was relatively common and widespread throughout southern Africa, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. However, it is believed that the species experienced a significant decline throughout its range in the early 20th century and by the mid-20th century was largely absent from many areas where it was once common.

Today, the Burchell’s Courser is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), although its populations are declining and it faces significant threats from habitat loss and degradation, as well as hunting and egg collection. It is also at risk from climate change and drought, which are projected to be particularly severe in the species’ arid range.

In Conclusion

The Burchell’s Courser is a fascinating bird species with significant geographic variation, subspecies, and historical changes to its distribution. Despite its interesting characteristics, the species is facing significant threats and requires concerted conservation efforts to protect its populations and habitats.

Understanding the systematics history and ecology of the Burchell’s Courser is crucial to ensuring its survival and protecting the unique biodiversity of southern Africa.

Habitat and Movements of the Burchell’s Courser

The Burchell’s Courser is a ground-dwelling bird species found in the dry and arid regions of southern Africa, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Angola. In addition to its striking physical characteristics, the bird has unique aspects to its habitat, migrations, and movements.

This article will delve into the bird’s habitat, movements, and migration patterns.


Burchell’s Coursers are highly specialized to arid, open habitats. The species is abundant in dry, sandy, stony, and rocky plains, including calcareous and sandy areas with small scattered bushes.

The birds are also found in thornbush and woodland savannah, both of which feature low and scrubby vegetation. Fossil evidence indicates the species was once resident in areas now covered by Kalahari sandveld, though it remains unclear whether it was found there in recent times.

The species’ habitat is primarily found in the arid, savannah regions of southern Africa, where the annual rainfall averages between 100-500 mm. Coursers can also be found in the Namib and Saharan Deserts but are absent from the Cape region characterized by the regions Mediterranean climate.

Occasionally, the birds can be observed in mixed bird flocks consisting of other species of terrestrial waders.

Movements and Migration

Burchell’s Coursers are primarily sedentary birds, which means that they do not migrate. Courser movements, generally, are related to seasonal changes in weather and resources.

During the hottest part of the day, Coursers are known to hide in the shade of bushes to escape the sun’s heat. Their preferred times of activity are dawn and dusk when temperatures are cooler.

From October to March, the breeding season, males engage in territorial fights, calling to defend their nesting territories by performing displays and vigorous calling. Burchell’s Coursers are sprinters rather than fliers and have highly adapted legs, allowing them to run extremely fast over short distances.

As a result, they are highly mobile and can cover a considerable distance in search of food and resources. These birds can easily outrun snakes and other small predators but rely on living in areas where it is easy to dart away from predators.

Burchell’s Coursers are also known to undertake short-distance movements during drought periods to forage and establish territories in new areas with both open ground and low bushland vegetation. These movements are vital to avoid competition and prevent overcrowding of areas with limited food resources, and are usually limited to a maximum of 100km from their breeding grounds.

These short movements are accomplished by sprinting and running at eye-watering speeds of up to 48 km/h an incredible feat for a small bird like the Burchells Courser!

In Conclusion

The Burchell’s Courser is a sedentary bird species adapted to arid habitats in southern Africa. The bird’s habitat comprises dry, sandy, stony, and rocky plains, as well as thornbush and woodland savannah with low vegetation.

The bird’s unique characteristics are mainly manifested in its remarkable sprinting abilities that allow the bird to cover short distances incredibly fast. While Burchell’s Courser does not migrate, it may undertake short-distance movements in search of resources during droughts.

Their successful adaptation to the arid habitat has made them an integral part of the southern African ecosystem and emphasizes the importance of protecting their habitats and managing their movements to ensure their survival.

Diet and Foraging, and

Sounds and Vocal Behavior of the Burchell’s Courser

The Burchells Courser is a ground-dwelling bird native to the dry savannah regions of southern Africa. This article explores the diet and foraging strategies of the bird, as well as its unique vocalizations and behavior.

Diet and Foraging

The Burchells courser is a carnivorous bird that feeds on insects, spiders, and other small arthropods. The bird usually forages solitarily or in pairs, running on the ground in a zigzag manner.

Courtship feeding has been observed with the male bringing food to the female during the breeding season. Feeding habits of the Burchells Courser are believed to be opportunistic in nature and are dependent on the availability of prey in a particular area.

Burchells Coursers may be active throughout most of the day, with peaks during early morning, late afternoon and early evening. During the breeding season, males call frequently while foraging.


The Burchells Coursers diet comprises of invertebrates, with a preference to eat insects. Beetles and termites are the most common diet, but the bird is also known to feed on ants, grasshoppers, cicadas, centipedes, and spiders.

The birds’ eyesight is well adapted to foraging and can detect food items as far as 30 meters away. Burchells Coursers rarely feed on seeds, fruits, or vegetation.

Apart from their opportunistic foraging habits, they hit prey on the ground, capture flying insects mid-air, and snatch them from leaves of arid plants. Moreover, this bird species has a unique feeding pattern where they will peck prey in the sand a number of times before killing and consuming it.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Burchells Courser has a slow metabolism and a lower metabolic rate compared to other bird species. This is likely due to its diet, which consists of small insects that have lower energy and nutrient content than other types of prey.

The bird uses a range of behavioral and physiological adaptations to regulate its body temperature in arid environments. During the heat of the day, it mainly rests in the shade of small shrubs, where it can avoid the sun and maintain its body temperature at a reasonable level.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

The Burchells Courser is a silent bird most of the time and produces few audible calls. The birds main vocalization is a loud, two syllable kua-wip call that is often given during the breeding season by males to advertise their territories.

The call is used for a short period during breeding season and may last for several hours, with each call lasting for less than a second.


The kua-wip call starts with a low-pitched kua sound and ends in a high-pitched wip. This distinctive call can travel far distances in the quiet, open savannah that is characteristic of their habitat.

The call can also be used in aggressive interactions with other birds of the same species as well as predators. In contrast to the kua-wip call, Burchells coursers are comparatively silent, relying on other modes of communication.

For instance, they use various physical displays like wing waving and head bobbing to communicate with each other. Males engage in elaborate displays performing vigorous calling and displays to defend their nesting territories during the mating season.

In Conclusion

The Burchells Courser is a unique bird species that has adapted to living in arid environments. Their preference for insects in their diet has shaped their foraging habits; running, pecking, and snatching prey from leaves of arid plants, among other unique patterns.

The courser’s vocalizations are limited to a single two-syllable sound, which serves communication purposes during courtship and authorizing territorial boundaries. Understanding the courser’s feeding habits, metabolism, and behavior is essential for their conservation and management, given their distinctiveness and potential contribution to their habitats.


Breeding, Demography, and Populations of the Burchell’s Courser

The Burchells Courser is a ground-dwelling bird species found in the dry and arid regions of Southern Africa. The bird has unique behavioral characteristics that contribute to its adaptation to the arid environment.

This article will delve into the behavior, breeding, and population dynamics of the Burchells courser.



The Burchells Courser has highly specialized and adapted legs that allow it to run at high speeds over short distances. The bird’s locomotion is characterized by running in a zigzag pattern across the ground, pausing to peck insects off the ground with its long and needle-like bill.

The course’s running speed, combined with its ability to change direction quickly, makes it difficult for predators to capture. Burchell’s coursers are also well-suited to slipping between obstacles in thorn bush habitats.

Self Maintenance

The Burchell’s courser has unique self-maintenance behaviors that are adapted to its arid habitat. The bird often uses dust baths to remove dirt and parasites from its feathers.

Additionally, the courser has specialized feathers that are resistant to sand and dust. These feathers have elongated tips that act like hooks and prevent sand and dust from penetrating to the skin.

Agonistic Behavior

The Burchells Courser can be territorial and highly aggressive during the breeding season. Males use vocal and physical displays to defend their nesting territories from other males or predators.

They perform displays and violent calling to warn off challengers, which may lead to physical combat. Physical contact may involve grappling on the ground and occasionally, kicking that can cause injuries or death.

Sexual Behavior

Sexual behavior is characterized by a courtship display performed by males during the breeding season. The male advertises his presence and displays his prowess by calling and engaging in physical displays, typically in the early morning and late afternoon.

Males also provide the female with courtship feeding and maintain their bond throughout the nesting and incubation period. The Burchell’s courser has a monogamous sexual behavior, such that a male will actively defend the nesting territory and provide assistance in rearing of the chicks.


The breeding season for Burchells Coursers starts in August September, coinciding with the onset of the rainy season. During this time, males establish territories by engaging in intense displays and laying claim to specific nesting areas.

In these areas, the male constructs a simple scrape in the sand that is not lined with any material. After mating, the birds lay two eggs in their nest, which is usually constructed in sandy substrates for camouflage, with clutches usually laid in September and incubation lasting up to 27 days.

Both sexes participate in incubation duties and once the chicks have hatched, both will provide brooding and feeding duties until the chicks have gained sufficient strength to feed themselves.

Demography and Populations

The Burchell’s courser is not considered globally endangered but is affected by habitat destruction from disturbance and cycles of drought that reduces

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