Justification of Red List Category
This species has a large range, however, given the specific nature of its habitat requirements, the actual area it occupies is believed to be small, occurring at fewer than ten locations in the non-breeding season; at these sites habitat quality is declining. For these reasons it is evaluated as Near Threatened.
The total population has been estimated at 16,200-17,500 individuals, roughly equivalent to 11,000-12,000 mature individuals.
There is currently a lack of evidence for a decline in the global population of this species (T. Dodman in litt. 2006). A recent TRIM analysis using 25 years' worth of counts suggests that the trend is uncertain, or possibly even increasing (H. Kolberg in litt. 2016), and therefore the population is currently estimated as stable until more definitive evidence for the possible increase is shown.
Charadrius pallidus has a disjunct distribution with two separate populations. The nominate subspecies occurs across southern Africa in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, while subspecies venustus is restricted to the Rift Valley of East Africa in Kenya and Tanzania. The species has a large range. Its global population is estimated at 17,500 individuals. Simultaneous counts indicate that just three sites - Walvis Bay and Sandwich Harbour in Namibia, and Lake Natron in Tanzania - can hold 87% of the world population during non-breeding periods. Nine key sites have been identified, based upon counts between 1990 and 2001, which hold >1% of the global population and between them can hold the entire population during the non-breeding season (Simmons et al. 2007). In Namibia, Walvis Bay has held approximately 7,700 individuals and Sandwich Harbour 5,000 individuals (although numbers can fluctuate according to whether it has rained inland or not [H. Kolberg in litt. 2016]); Okondeka has held 300 individuals and Mile Four has had 174 individuals counted. Elsewhere in southern Africa the Berg River saltpans in South Afica held 181 individuals and the Nata delta in Botswana has had 277 individuals. Counts in the Makgadikgadi system in Botswana in 2007 gave a population estimate of 508-1,016 individuals (Hancock 2008). The East African population, thought to number 5,000-6,000 birds (N. Baker in litt. 2006), is concentrated in the northern Rift Valley with counts from Tanzania of 2,340 individuals at Lake Natron and 520 individuals at Lake Manyara, and 590 individuals at Lake Magadi in Kenya.
Behaviour This species is thought to be a partial migrant though its movements are poorly understood and vary throughout its range (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). Coastal birds in South Africa are probably mostly resident (Hockey et al. 2005), and breed between March and May, and also between September and January, with a peak in the months of November and December (del Hoyo et al. 1996). In Namibia some birds move inland from the coast to breed (Hockey et al. 2005, Simmons et al. 2007), except in years of drought when they remain in coastal areas (Hockey et al. 2005). Some inland birds disperse to the coast after breeding, to join the coastal residents (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Conflicting reports exist concerning the breeding months in Namibia, but it is probably between January and June based on reports of birds moving inland from the coast during the rains in January (Simmons et al. 2007) and occurring in large numbers on the coast in the dry months of June and July (Simmons et al. 2007, Wearne and Underhill 2005). However some authors place the breeding season in March - October (Hockey et al. 2005),or specifically in July (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), and report large numbers of birds occurring at the coast in December and January (Whitelaw et al. 1978). The East African population breeds between March and October (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Birds move up and down the Rift Valley, with peak numbers occuring at Lake Manyara during the months of July to September (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Scattered records outside its normal range suggest some degree of nomadism (Hockey et al. 2005). Numbers at any given site (and perhaps in the global population) fluctuate from year to year, particularly in response to drought at inland breeding sites. Breeding mostly coincides with the end of the rains (Hockey et al. 2005). The species is usually found in pairs or small groups, particularly during the breeding season when pairs defend territories (Hockey et al. 2005). During the non-breeding season it roosts communally,and much larger aggregations are formed: 375 birds were seen together in Namibia (Hockey et al. 2005). It is known to occasionally roost in colonies of mixed plover species and sometimes forages in loose flocks of up to 60 birds (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). Habitat This species is strongly associated with saline and alkaline water (Johnsgard 1981). Breeding It breeds in alkaline and saline wetlands, including inland salt pans, both natural and man-made (Hockey et al. 2005). In East Africa in breeds around large alkaline lakes (Simmons et al. 2007). At the coast it is found around lagoons and estuarine salt marshes (Hockey et al. 2005). It prefers areas that are devoid of vegetation (Johnsgard 1981), and is rarely found more than 50m from the water's edge (Hockey et al. 2005). Non-breeding During the non-breeding season it is more often found in its coastal habitats, including intertidal mud-flats (Hockey et al. 2005) and usually occurs within 1km of the water's edge (Simmons et al. 2007). It very rarely occurs in freshwater habitats (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species has shown itself to be adaptable by colonising new areas and using man-made habitats such as salt ponds (Hockey et al. 2005). Diet The diet is unknown but presumed to consist of insect (eg Chironomid) larvae and small crustaceans such as Artemia species (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). Breeding site The nest consists of a scrape in an area of calcareous soil, dry mud or stony ground, approximately 5cm in diameter and 1cm in depth, and is always positioned within 50m of the water's edge (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005).
Two key sites face ongoing threats that may impact negatively upon the population. Walvis Bay on Namibia's central coast is the premier site for this species and also the site of Namibia's largest port (Simmons et al. 2007), where pollution is a risk. The main threats include concentrations of fish oils and other detritus from ships (Simmons et al. 2007). Siltation has also been a threat since a salt works was established at the southern end of the lagoon (Simmons et al. 2007). These threats have the potential to reduce habitat quality. Lake Natron in Tanzania, despite its inhospitable climate and inaccessibility, may suffer reduced water input in future years for two reasons (Simmons et al. 2007). First, an irrigation project on the Ewaso-Ngiro River was proposed in the 1990s which could also generate hydroelectric power (Simmons et al. 2007). Secondly, there are more recent plans to expand operations for a soda-extraction plant along the south-western shores, threatening to use much of the water that would otherwise flow into the lake (Baker and Baker 2001). Canoeing as a tourist activity has been introduced on some Rift Valley lakes within this species's range and may cause disturbance.
Conservation Actions Underway
The three most important sites for this species are designated Ramsar sites and Important Bird Areas. Additionally, Sandwich Harbour is a national park and Lake Natron is a game controlled area.
15 cm. Proportionally long dark legs, black lores and eye-stripe leading to a black bill. A chestnut band on the forecrown joins a chestnut breast-band. White forehead, throat and belly. Back and crown are greyish brown. Similar spp. Other species in the region lack the chestnut breast-band, although C. mongolus and C. leschenaultii show extensive brick red across the breast in breeding plumage. These species are both larger and have a black mask and forehead.
Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Fisher, S., Martin, R, Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.
Baker, N., Dodman, T., Hilton-Taylor, C., Kitaba, K., Kolberg, H., Naswira, O., Simmons, R., Tyler, S., Underhill, L. & Wearne, K.
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Charadrius pallidus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 11/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 11/07/2020.