content credit goes to William Jones

Fieldwork on shorebirds in Madagascar has been going continuously in some form since 2001. In the early days, Tamás Székely and Sama Zefania scoured the western coastline for the perfect field site for a long-term project. For several years, field work was carried out at Lake Tsimanampetsotsa, in the southwest of the island, but since 2008 work has shifted a couple of hundred kilometres to the north to the Andavadoaka area.

Coastline at Lamboara, Southwest Madagascar

The village of Andavadoaka is surrounded by some of the best plover breeding habitats in the country, with a large saltmarsh, known as Lac Antsirabe. There are also a series of smaller saltmarshes and many sandy beaches and mangrove forests and mudflats along the coast which combine to form an ideal plover breeding site. Four plover species use the site to breed, the globally vulnerable and endemic Madagascar (or Black-banded) Plover (Charadrius thoracicus), the White-fronted Plover (Charadrius marginatus tenellus) and the Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecuarius). In addition, small numbers of Three-banded Plovers (Charadrius tricollaris bifrontatus) breed around the field site, although their population is not monitored.

Andavadoaka is a dry part of the island, with a short and unpredictable rainy season. Despite being scarce, these rains are crucial for the site, as they are the sole source of water for the saltmarshes. In years with lots of rain, hundreds of plover nests are laid, whereas in the driest years the plovers might not breed at all. This stochastic environment has led to some interesting behavioural and life history traits in the plover species that live here, and this forms the basis of many of our current research interest.

In addition, the spiny forests, coastal scrublands, and farmland surrounding these wetlands provide the perfect habitat for another, enigmatic shorebird species- the Madagascar Buttonquail (Turnix nigricollis), which we have recently begun to study.

Relevant publications:

Jones, W., Eberhart-Hertel, L.J., Freckleton, R.P., Hoffman, J.I., Krüger, O., Sandercock, B.K., Vincze, O., Zefania, S. and Székely, T. (2022), Exceptionally high apparent adult survival in three tropical species of plovers in Madagascar. J Avian Biol, 2022:.

Parra, J. E., Beltrán, M., Zefania, S., Dos Remedios, N., & Székely, T. (2014). Experimental assessment of mating opportunities in three shorebird species. Animal Behaviour, 90, 83-90.

Eberhart-Phillips, L. J.Hoffman, J. I.Brede, E. G.Zefania, S.Kamrad, M. J.Székely, T. and Bruford, M. W. (2015). Contrasting genetic diversity and population structure among three sympatric Madagascan shorebirds: parallels with rarity, endemism and dispersal. – Ecol. Evol. 5: 997– 1010.

Sama Zefania, Richard ffrench-Constant, Peter R Long & Tamás Székely (2008) Breeding distribution and ecology of the threatened Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus, Ostrich, 79:1, 43-51, DOI: 10.2989/OSTRICH.2008.