Cladorhynchus leucocephalus


July 5, 2022

The banded knight (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus (Vieillot, 1816)) is a charadriiform bird with nomadic habits belonging to the family of stilt and avocets, the Recurvirostrids, native to Australia. It belongs to the monotypic genus Cladorhynchus. It owes its name to the reddish-brown band present on the chest of adults during the mating season, although this can also be replaced by a set of spots or even be absent in non-breeding adults and in juveniles. The rest of the plumage is black and white and the eyes are dark brown. The nestlings are covered with white down, unlike those of all other species of caradriiform. Nesting begins when the rains fill the salt lakes of the continent's interior, creating large expanses of shallow water filled with the tiny shrimp these birds feed on. Banded knights migrate in large numbers to these lakes and congregate in large breeding colonies. The female lays three to four whitish eggs spotted with brown or black in a hump. If conditions are favorable, a second brood can be laid, but if the lakes dry up prematurely, the breeding colonies can be abandoned. The banded horseman is considered a 'least risk species' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Under the terms of South Australia's National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, however, the species is considered 'vulnerable'. It is mainly threatened by predation by Australian gulls, which are considered a serious threat. Black hawks and wedge-tailed eagles also hunt these birds, capturing both juveniles and adults.


The French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot described the bandaged knight in 1816, classifying it in the genus of avocets, Recurvirostra, and giving it the name Recurvirostra leucocephala, "L'avocette a tete blanche" ("testabianca avocetta"). He only wrote that the species was present in the terres australes, but we do not know what he meant by these words. According to amateur ornithologist Gregory Mathews they were the state of Victoria, while Erwin Stresemann came to the conclusion that it was rather Rottnest Island in Western Australia. The scientific name derives from the ancient Greek leukos, "white", and kephale, "head". The same year the French naturalist Georges Cuvier described it as Recurvirostra orientalis. The Belgian ornithologist Bernard du Bus de Gisignies described it again, giving it a new genus and a new specific epithet, Leptorhynchus pectoralis, at the Royal Academy of Belgium in 1835.The English zoologist George Robert Gray, having noticed that the name Leptorhynchus was already previously used, it placed the banded knight in the current genus Cladorhynchus in 1840. The name derives from the ancient Greek klados, "twig", and rhynchos, "beak". Similarly, the German naturalist Johannes Gistel proposed the name Timeta to replace Leptorhynchus in 1848. John Gould had described the banded knight as Himantopus palmatus in 1837, but recorded it as Cladorhynchus pectoralis in his 1865 Handbook to the Birds of Australia. Gould also wrote that its distribution area had remained uncertain after it was first reported on Rottnest Island but nowhere else in Western Australia, and later in South Australia, until British explorer Charles Sturt saw one. large numbers on Lake Lepson north of Cooper Creek in what is now western Queensland. In 1845 the German naturalist Ludwig Reichenbach placed it in a new genus, calling it Xiphidiorhynchus pectoralis. The Australian ornithologist Fred Lawson gave it the name Cladorhynchus australis in 1904. Gregory Mat