February 1, 2016 – Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)

Found around the Indian Ocean, these shorebirds are the only species in their family and have no close living relatives. They eat crabs, along with marine worms, and mudskippers, catching them as the tide recedes and smashing larger crabs to break them up before swallowing them. Forming breeding colonies in areas with an abundance of crabs, they build connected burrows in sand dunes, laying their eggs in nest chambers near the surface. These chambers are thought to insulate the eggs from extremely high temperatures, while also serving as a solar incubator, so parents don’t need to spend much time directly incubating the eggs. Chicks hatch well-developed from the large eggs after about a month, though they don’t leave the nest chamber until they fledge. More Crab Plovers have been observed in their winter range than at their known breeding grounds. It is not known where the rest of the population goes to breed.

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