[Plovers] Possible "White-faced" Plover (juvenile)

Possible "White-faced" Plover (juvenile)

Possible "White-faced" Plover (juvenile) at the boardwalk - 31st May 2011

A puzzling (to me) juvenile "Charadrius" plover with a hindcollar.

Little-ringed Plover seemed a possibility, it breeds locally, but I eliminated it due to LRP's smaller size, brighter yellow legs and -usually- LRP's complete collar across the breast.  

Common Ringed Plover and Long-billed Plover are both rare winter visitors. Neither seemed "right" for this individual.

Kentish Plover - is a spring and autumn migrant, numerous winter visitor - to my mind more delicate than this.

So I was still guessing about the identification until I heard that the recently re-discovered "dealbatus" form of Kentish Plover, known as "White-faced" Plover was found breeding on a beach in late May at Shantou, Guangdong Province, by Brian Ivon Jones.

For photos of young plovers on the beach,  and other shots of "dealbatus" see Oriental Bird Images at :

There is a good online account of the re-discovery of "dealbatus" here at Surfbirds :

To sum up, "dealbatus" is:
(1) slightly larger than the Kentish Plovers that winter in south China,
(2) bigger-billed and
(3) longer-legged, especially above the knee.
(4) the legs are paler in colour than wintering Kentish Plovers.
(5) in flight: broad white trailing edge to secondaries, pale tips to the outer greater coverts and extreme white in outer rectrices, more so than Kentish would show.

Science has not yet determined whether this form is a race of Kentish Plover, or a separate species.

So, to get to the point, I think this could be a "White-faced" Plover, Charadrius (alexandrinus) dealbatus.  

I have exchanged Emails and my photos above with Peter Kennerley and David Bakewell - the co-authors of the "dealbatus" identification papers in Forktail and Birding Asia, as well as the Surfbirds article linked to above.

They have been quite positive, but have expressed reservations about whether these photos  absolutely confirm the identification, especially because the identification features of juvenile "dealbatus" are still not well known.

A suggestion

This is a reminder (as stated in the Kentish Plover  account in the HK Bird Report 2005-2006) to bird watchers and photographers to be on the lookout for White-faced Plover on Hong Kong's shorelines this summer and early autumn.  "dealbatus" is said to prefer sandy beaches, so they could turn up in some very underwatched places.


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Doop-de doop ! Good find, John
Hope your hard work prevail !



Congratulation John and jemi!
Love photographing Creator's work


Congratulations on this good find!


Dear John,

A set of beautiful photos of an unusual plumaged juvenile Plover.
As you say this bird best fits one of the Kentish complex.

I like to point out several things in the photo that may be creating an illusion and affecting our overall impression.

1. I think the legs appear very pale but may be largely covered in mud, which is grey and reflective ! Note the bump on the left side of the lower tarsus - this may actually be a small ‘lump’ of mud. I wondered if the hind border of the left upper tarsal border may be the true leg colour.

2. The left outer tail feather/s do not appear to be attached to the body of the bird
(note the blue grey intervening patch) ! Perhaps the photo has captured the same feather in 2 or so different positions – the blurred effect exaggerating the white on the tail!

When I started to trawl for juvenile images of Kentish Plovers, it is surprising the variation that is found in leg colour and apparent tibial length.

See the  4th Kentish Plover photo in this series for one of an extraordinary tibial length..

On a separate point (one that isn’t directly related to your images), I’m sure we have all experienced legs that that appear darker in some light compared to others. I suspect leg colour isn’t as ‘black and white’ as you might initially think. This extreme back lit photo (the leg is actually dark in normal lighting conditions) suggests what we sometimes see in the field. Leg colour seems to change in different light.

I can’t convince myself that the bird has the typical bill shape of a White faced, but perhaps this structural change may be less obvious in a juvenile bird.

This other article provides some additions to the quoted Surfbird e Publication. ... rley-Charadrius.pdf

As you have eluded to, the range of characteristics and the differences  between  juvenile alexandrinus and dealbatus (as far as I am aware) has not been published and perhaps are essentially unknown.

Great photos all the same of a lovely plover.
Thanks for sharing them.
With kind regards,


On a related subject. This last Monday (7th November) I observed 2 "Kentish" type Plovers at Mactan Bridge lagoons in Cebu, Philippines. They appeared to be a pair and were in constant company with 10+ Little Ringed Plovers and up to 40+ Long Toed Stints. They both had obvious Pink legs. Their bills were not overly large and were all black, They both had light fringes to their upperpart/ wing feathers and one of them had a narrow but complete breast band. The legs did not appear as long as the birds I had seen in the UK so looked less gangly than usual.

I recall watching a pair of White Faced Plovers at Langkawi in Malaysia. I was fortunate enough to see them on several occasions in winter and spring 2006-2008. The thing that struck me was just how aggressive they were to other birds, even ones larger than themselves. I would watch them actually harry Greater Sand Plovers that got to close to their feeding territory. They looked like little "Ghosts" running along the sand.

[ Last edited by OlangoSteveUK at 11/11/2011 22:03 ]


Thanks Eric and Steve for your comments.

I joined Brian Ivon Jones in Haifeng, East Guangdong a couple of times to get views and photos of the breeding dealbatus  blog posts here: ... ahu-beach-east.html

I think I'm coming down on the side of "nihonensis" Kentish rather than Swinhoe's/White-faced for this one, sadly !

Whether science decides that dealbatus is a "race" or a species, I'm sure we'll get a few in Hong Kong sooner or later.

In front of the seafood restaurant on Po Toi, perhaps !


Kentish plover (I reckon) at Pui O...

Hi Jonathan:

Good to meet you today, and to learn of Swinhoe's plover at Pui O.

Here's a Kentish type Plover I believe I mentioned, at Pui O.
Looking at this thread, perhaps indeed a Kentish; if so, shows not all such plovers at Pui O are Swinhoe's!

Hong Kong Outdoors enjoying and protecting wild Hong Kong. DocMartin includes H5N1 and wild birds info


Hi Martin,

Was nice to meet you this morning. I'm sorry but I live in China where access to youtube is prohibited, and the VPN I usually use is out of service, it seems due to the PCC meeting at beijing.
Do you have any other solution to send it to me, dropbox or any other..I'll send you my mail address by PM.

All the best,