Ground Foragers.

Key Features

At first sight this appears to be a very disparate group of birds but they all have quite a few characteristics in common:-

  • Ground Foragers – freeze and rely on camouflage - some are also ground nesters.
  • Mostly favour open, dry, arid, stony, even rocky areas.
  • Some favour high altitude, mountainous regions as well as ravines.
  • Many freeze and rely on their plumage for camouflage when danger threatens.
  • All except the Sandgrouse are reluctant fliers.
  • Mainly birds with distributions in Africa and Asia plus Europe - A link back to Gondwanaland origins is suggested.

These very adaptable birds probably originated as about 50 or 60 mya as arboreal woodland or forest birds. They evolved to become more terrestrial, favouring open areas, rocky mountain slopes and ravines. They range in size from large to medium sized birds, which ornithologists class as Non- Passerines, to smaller birds which are classed as Passerines.

Bustards and Korhaans, Thick-knees, Coursers and Sandgrouse.

  • Bustards and Korhaans are large bodied, robust birds which have body forms quite reminiscent of small Ostriches. Fossil evidence relates the Bustards to ancestors such as the Diatryma, Gastornis and Phorusrhacos which places them in the period 56 to 40 mya.
  • Thick-knees or Stone Curlews are medium sized, secretive birds which favour semi-arid areas. They have large eyes and are partly nocturnal preferring to freeze rather than run or fly when disturbed. They eat plant materials but most species have become omnivorous. The Thick-knees reduce the odds still further by foraging and feeding in the dark. All are reluctant fliers.
  • Coursers in family Glareolidae, incorrectly called Waders, occupy a very similar, mainly arid habitat, to the Bustards and Thick-knees.
  • Sandgrouse (family Pteroclididae) favour open, treeless areas in the OW region. They are found in Africa and Eurasia.

To see more about this group of birds click on Bustards, Thick-knees, Coursers and Sandgrouse.

Wheatears, Ring Ouzel, Rock Thrushes, Rock Jumpers, Rock Fowl, Accentors.

  • Wheatears are Passerine birds listed in genus Oenanthe of family Muscicapidae. They were formerly considered to be members of the Thrush family Turdidae. They are mainly an Old World group found in Africa and Europe, but the Northern Wheatear has established a foothold in eastern Canada and Greenland and in western Canada and Alaska. They have adapted to an existence in extreme desert conditions. Some have expanded their ranges into temperate zone and even subarctic landscapes.
  • Ring Ouzel is a European member of the Thrush family Turdidae. It is the mountain equivalent of the closely related Common Blackbird.
  • Rock Thrushes breed in the Western Palearctic in warm, dry temperate, climatic zones, montane and coastal, rocky and nearly always partly precipitous.
  • Rockjumpers, listed in family Chaetopidae, are birds of Africa. They scratch the ground and probe for larvae and invertebrates.
  • Rockfowl or Bald Crows are a genus of two bird species forming the family Picathartidae found in the rain-forests of tropical west and central Africa.
  • Accentors, in family Prunellidae, are endemic to the Palearctic. All but the Dunnock and the Japanese Accentor are inhabitants of the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia.

To see more about this group of birds click on Wheatears, Ring Ouzel, Rock Thrushes & Jumpers, Accentors

Larks, Wagtails, Pipits and Longclaws.

  • Larks favour open, sparsely vegetated grasslands, heaths, rocky plains and steppes. The various species can be found in areas ranging from desert to Himalayan slopes at up to 4600 metres. They generally avoid trees and bushes. Larks are distinguished from other Passerines by several anatomical features so although relationships remain uncertain we can say that they evolved from more arboreal ancestors but then adapted over a long period of time to terrestrial habitats. They are now predominantly ground-dwelling birds being ground nesters and relying on their plumage to hide them from most predators.
  • Wagtails like open spaces where they can see and pursue their prey. They can be seen in pastures and meadows nearly always near water.
  • Pipits tend to be found in terrestrial habitats where they are ground nesters and foragers. They are insectivorous and, in common with other Motacillidae species, seek out much of their prey on foot. The exceptions are the Tree Pipit and the Wood Pipit which are found in woodland.
  • Longclaws eight species are only found in Africa where they favour moist, seasonally flooded grassland usually without trees.

To see more about this group of birds click on Larks, Wagtails, Pipits, Longclaws.

Concluding Remarks.

Taken together these birds account for about 2.8% of the world's species.