Breeding ecology of a high-altitude shorebird in the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau

Narhulan Halimbekh Naerhulan, Xin Lin, Mohammed Almalki, Qin Huang, Yuelou Liu, Tongzuo Zhang, Zhengwang Zhang, Tamas Szekely, Yang Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Shorebirds are facing global decline as a consequence of anthropogenic effects that include habitat loss, increased predation and climate change. Although some shorebirds are extensively studied, basic data on life history, ecology and behaviour are still lacking especially for populations where climate change is expected to have severe effects. Here, we provide the first detailed investigation of a high-altitude nesting shorebird in the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau, the Tibetan Sand Plover Charadrius atrifrons. This alpine-breeding Central-Asian species recently split from the Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus that breeds in Eastern Siberia. Understanding the fundamental ecology and behaviour of alpine-breeding shorebirds is important for predicting the challenges these high-altitude species will face given the human-driven environmental changes that are likely to take place in these habitats. Here, we show that Tibetan Sand Plovers in the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau have a short breeding season from mid-May to late-June, and exhibit social monogamy and bi-parental care of the clutch. Since they have low hatching success (18 of 57 nests hatched) and no chance of renesting, maintaining population size in the future may pose a challenge. To provide essential information for protection of this species in a vulnerable habitat, further demographic studies are warranted to better understand how climate change will mould adaptations of this specialised high-altitude species to their environment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Early online date21 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

We thank all fieldwork volunteers and people who have worked and supported the conservation project of Tibetan Sand Plovers at Qinghai Lake, especially to Dr. Kate Maher, Dr. Araxi Urrutia, Dr. Zitan Song, Ran Zhao, Siyu Ding and Edil Halimbekh for data collection, and to Dr. Kees Wanders for his advice on previous versions of the manuscript. We also thank Xiangwen Chi and Dr. Hongmei Gao for providing laboratory facilities over the research period.

Data Availability Statement

Data are available in the following Github repository: https:// github. com/ narhu lan29/ Tibet an_ sand_ plover_ Journ al_ of_ Ornit hology.git


  • Breeding success
  • Climate change
  • Incubation
  • Plateau
  • Sand plover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Breeding ecology of a high-altitude shorebird in the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this