Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The overall population trend is stable, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).
Behaviour This species is essentially sedentary but during periods of flooding it leaves rivers and moves to drier ground or temporary lagoons (Johnsgard 1981). Outside of the breeding season the species is gregarious and can generally be found in groups of 6-12 birds, occasionally in flocks of up to 30 (Urban, et al. 1986, del Hoyo, et al. 1996) or more on migration to less flooded areas (Johnsgard 1981). Breeding occurs mainly during the dry season (del Hoyo, et al. 1996), and at this time the species is highly territorial and is found in isolated pairs (Johnsgard 1981). In western and equatorial Africa breeding usually begins near the end of April, with exact dates varying with locallity (Johnsgard 1981). Habitat This species inhabits large rivers with sandy riverbanks and islands or sandbanks mid-stream, both in open country and forest (Urban, et al. 1986, del Hoyo, et al. 1996, Hockey, et al. 2005). During floods it is also found on small streams, pans and lagoons (del Hoyo, et al. 1996, Hockey, et al. 2005), and sometimes occurs on lake shores (e.g. Lake Kariba) (Urban, et al. 1986, Hockey, et al. 2005) foraging for worms in damp grassy places (Urban, et al. 1986). Diet The species is mainly omnivorous, taking insects (including beetles, weevils, ants, mantids and mutillid wasps), worms, molluscs, crabs, other small crustaceans and small fish (Urban, et al. 1986, del Hoyo, et al. 1996, Hockey, et al. 2005) or frogs (Johnsgard 1981, Hockey, et al. 2005); very rarely taking vegetable matter (del Hoyo, et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest of this species is a lined shallow scrape on sand or shingle in riverbeds at times of low water (Urban, et al. 1986, del Hoyo, et al. 1996).
The species is threatened in South Africa by habitat degradation owing to decreasing river flows (resulting from afforestation, invasive plant species and increasing water abstraction) (Hockey, et al. 2005).
Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Vanellus albiceps. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/01/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/01/2022.