Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Why "Blacksmith" Plover?

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Blacksmith plovers (Vanellus armatus) are fairly common birds in South Africa. In fact they were among the first and last birds I observed on both trips there--they are in wetlands near the Johannesburg airport.

But I never knew why they were called blacksmith plovers. I had always assumed that the plover's all-black front resembled a smithy's apron, and that's where the name came from.
While birding along Muzi Pan in Zululand, near the St. Lucia Wetlands complex, our group saw several small flocks of blacksmith plovers. We digiscoped a few new individuals and then moved on to other species. But it wasn't until one of the plover flocks flew over me that I had a eureka! moment about the species' name.

Tink! Tink! Tink-tink! Tink! Their flight calls sounded exactly like a blacksmith's hammer striking metal. And now I know how the blacksmith plover got its name.


On August 2, 2006 at 1:15 PM Karyn said...


You pictures are so wonderful!
Any idea what the natives called the plover before the notion of blacksmiths?


On August 3, 2006 at 12:07 AM Bill of the Birds said...

The Zulu name for blacksmith plover (sometimes called blacksmith lapwing) is iNdudumela.

The Afrikaans name is bontkiewiet