The Black-fronted Dotterel breeds throughout the year around Broome and usually close to fresh water. Although I have written about this small resident shorebird breeding in the past I have now been able to obtain photographs of it maintaining egg temperature on very hot and dry days. We always stop in at Ellendale dam when we travel north, because it offers such a great variety of bird-life. On a recent visit we were just getting out of our vehicle and I noticed a pair of Black-fronted Dotterel swimming! I immediately thought of the Pied Oystercatchers along Broome’s coast that go into the sea and get their breast feathers wet to then return to their eggs to keep the temperature at a suitable level.




Black-fronted Dotterel filling its breast feathers with water

We sat down and only a few moments later one of the pair of Black-fronted Dotterels walked towards us and hovered over two eggs! The nest was not easily observed among the rocks and could have easily been overlooked without the bird hovering above the two eggs.





Black-fronted Dotterel hovering over two eggs

We continued on with our lunch and as time when went by the Black-fronted Dotterel then lowered its body on top of the eggs to maintain the desired temperature.





Black-fronted Dotterel sitting on two eggs

Returning to Ellendale dam seventeen days later, when it was not as hot and dry we realised that the egg cooling had been rather more than just maintaining the temperature on that hot and dry day. A third egg had in fact been laid since our previous visit and the adults were now able to feed and leave the nest on occasion.


Black-fronted Dotterel nest

Hopefully by now there are three fluffy Black-fronted Dotterel chicks at Ellendale dam!

Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!