Madagascar Pratincole Glareola ocularis


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because its population is small and undergoing a continuing decline, probably owing to pressures on its wetland habitats.

Population justification
The species's population has been estimated to number 5,000-10,000 individuals (T. Dodman in litt. 2002), roughly equivalent to 3,300-6,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is estimated to be either declining (Wetlands International 2002, Dodman 2008, Delany et al. 2009), or stable following a major decline (T. Dodman in litt. 2007). Declines are presumably linked to widespread loss and degradation of wetland habitats in Madagascar (Delany et al. 2009).

Distribution and population

Glareola ocularis is a migratory species breeding in Madagascar, where it is found in groups of 10-50 in a variety of habitats across most of the country except the extreme south-west (Langrand 1990, Morris and Hawkins 1998). Eastern Madagascar probably constitutes its main breeding range, whereas on the west coast it is most often observed as a migrant (Langrand 1990, Morris and Hawkins 1998). It migrates to East Africa during the austral winter (May-August) (Langrand 1990, Morris and Hawkins 1998) where it is mainly found near the coast between Somalia and Mozambique, although large numbers have sometimes been recorded from inland sites (Urban et al. 1986). Several non-breeding sites are very important, holding several thousand birds (T. Dodman in litt. 2003) - surveys in September 2010 found over 3,000 at the Tana River Delta, Kenya (RSPB 2012) - whereas only two sites are known on Madagascar holding more than 100 individuals (T. Dodman in litt. 2003). Its population is small, recently estimated to number 5,000-10,000 individuals, and thought to be declining or stable following a major decline (Wetlands International 2002, Dodman 2008).


Behaviour This is a gregarious, migratory species (del Hoyo et al. 1996). On its breeding grounds it occurs in colonies of 10-50 birds (Langrand 1990), and forages in groups of up to 150 (Langrand 1990). It breeds mainly in eastern Madagascar from November-January, then moves west across the central highlands and assembles in large post-breeding groups on western rivers, before migrating to the East African coast where it is present from March-September (Delany et al. 2009). A flock of 9,000-10,000 was reported from the Kenyan coast in 1978 (Britton 1980, del Hoyo et al. 1996) but no other congregations larger than c.3,000 individuals have been recorded. It returns to its breeding range in September (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat Breeding It is known to breed in loose colonies on rocky islets in rivers, saltmarsh and coastal rocky areas (Langrand 1990). It is also found in short grasslands and at the edges of lakes and rivers (Langrand 1990). Non-breeding In its non-breeding range, it is generally found near to the coast in wetland areas, particularly lake shores, estuarine flats and sand bars, and coastal dunes (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is also found in short grasslands (del Hoyo et al. 1996), and on rocky outcrops (Urban et al. 1986, Harding 2013). Diet It feeds on insects, particularly Neuroptera, Hymenoptera and Coleoptera (Langrand 1990), which are often caught on the wing (Morris and Hawkins 1998). Breeding site The nests consists of a hollow in rock, lined with regurgitated insect exoskeletons (del Hoyo et al. 1996).


The species may be threatened by anthropogenic modification of its habitat, especially its breeding areas on the east coast of Madagascar. Changes to aquatic ecosystems in Madagascar may represent one of the biggest threats to this species's survival. The 130,000 ha Tana River Delta in Kenya, where over 3,000 individuals were counted in September 2010, is threatened by large-scale conversion for agriculture (food and biofuels), including Kenyan based organisations wanting to establish huge sugar cane plantations on over 70,000 ha of land, companies from Canada and the UK wanting to grow oil seed crops on over 60,000 ha, possible mining in the sand dunes and prospecting for oil and gas. Kenya's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) approved these projects after considering their Environmental Impact Assessments, and if they go ahead they will convert an area of over 110,000 ha into plantations (RSPB 2012). The Dar es Salaam coast of Tanzania is unprotected and subject to a range of threats including pollution and habitat degradation caused by urbanisation and unplanned development, while the Sabaki River mouth in Kenya, and key sites in Somalia, are unprotected and heavily disturbed (Delany et al. 2009). 

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is found in a number of protected areas across Madagascar, although few of its breeding areas are protected (Dodman 2008). No species-specific conservation action is in place. Counts in Kenya’s Tana Delta in 2011 add important information to the knowledge of the species and its reliance on critical sites. In 2011 a high-level meeting resulted in the launch of the Tana Delta planning initiative, with the process to take place from 2011-2013 and the planned output to be a long-term strategic land use plan representing a truly sustainable future to the Delta, informed by Strategic Environmental Assessment (RSPB 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Study the species's population size and trend. Determine the status of the species in its non-breeding range in East Africa, and establish timings of occurrence and movements at key sites in the coastal belt between Mozambique and Somalia (Dodman 2008). Investigate possible threats, including those in East Africa. Increase the area of habitat, particularly breeding habitat, that has protected status.


25 cm. Fork-tailed, crepuscular and tern-like wader that feeds mostly on invertebrates taken in flight. Dark, olive-brown upperparts; white rump; lores and ear-coverts black; white line from gape, under eye and beyond; throat and breast brown; chestnut underwing and belly patch; white lower belly and undertail coverts; bill black with red base. Similar spp. Distinguished from Rock Pratincole G. nuchalis by larger size and presence of chestnut in underparts.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.

Dodman, T.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Glareola ocularis. Downloaded from on 16/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 16/07/2020.