Scientific name

Dromas ardeola

Locally known as


IUCN status

Least Concern.


The Crab Plover is unmistakable with its black and white plumage and massive black bill. During the hot summer, large numbers of breeding birds converge at two island breeding sites in Abu Dhabi. At the colony, a long 1.5- 2 metre long burrow is excavated. The birds do not incubate the eggs; they are turned a few times a day till the chicks hatch. They feed on crabs that are found in plenty near the breeding colonies. At the end of breeding, all the birds move east towards the northern emirates where some winter, while other disperse into the Indian Ocean. Some birds tagged in Abu Dhabi have been found to fly up to the Seychelles!

Key threats

Disturbance at breeding sites, predation by invasive rats and egg collection.

Where they're found today

Indian Ocean, with migrations recorded as far as Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Madagascar.

Abu Dhabi’s efforts

EAD conducts annual assessments for key breeding birds, including the crab plover, which has helped assess the status of the species. The assessments reveal a population of 1300-1400 breeding pairs nest only on two islands in the UAE. EAD has tracked the movement of some Crab Plovers using satellite transmitters and Geolocators and tagged birds have been recorded as far as Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

Fun facts

  1. Crab plover colonies can reach up to 1,500 pairs and the bird is known to feed in groups of 40-50.
  2. The species catches prey and breaks it up using its heavy beak.
  3. It is known for being a very noisy bird and produces a distinctive, rapid call.
Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.