Red-kneed Dotterel

Did you know?

The Red-kneed Dotterel can run very fast and often uses this ability to escape predators.

Alarm call a rapid: 'wit-wit'.
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
August to January
Clutch Size: 
3 to 4
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Red-kneed Dotterel is a small, plump wader with relatively long legs. It has a black cap covering the eye that reaches from the upper bill to the lower hindneck. A black breast-band stand out against the entirely white chin and throat band. The breast-band grades into chestnut brown flanks. The upperparts are greenish brown and the underparts are white from the belly to the undertail. The bill is red with a blackish tip and the legs from the knees up are red, giving the species its common name. Young birds are similar to adults but the hood and breast band are brown. In all birds there is a sharp edge between the dark hood and white throat.

Similar species: 

There are no other waders that are really similar to the Red-kneed Dotterel, though the Black-fronted Dotterel, Elsyornis melanops, has a black line through the eye and a black breast-band. However this species lacks the completely dark hood and has a red eye-ring.

Where does it live?

Red-kneed Dotterels are found throughout mainland Australia and southern New Guinea.


Red-kneed Dotterels are found in wetlands, lagoons and swamplands, preferring fresh water and areas prone to flooding.

Seasonal movements: 

The Red-kneed Dotterel is resident but probably moves long distances to find wetlands.

What does it do?

The Red-kneed Dotterel feeds on aquatic insects, larvae and seeds. It probes the mud along shorelines, as well as wading and sometimes swimming while feeding.


The Red-kneed Dotterel scrapes a small hollow in wet ground close to water and often sheltered by a bush and sometimes lined with grasses. Both parents share incubation and caring for the young, which can swim on hatching. The young birds will swim to shelter in a plant when their parents give an alarm call.

Living with us

The Red-kneed Dotterel is secure. However, human disturbance, urban development and even cattle trampling over the eggs has had an effect on breeding in some areas.

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