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The Coursers form a small group of some nine or ten species, belonging to the Glareolidae family within the Charadriiformes order.  They differ from all other birds in the Charadriiformes order (except the PRATINCOLES who are the only other group within the Glareolidae family together with the Coursers) by their thick and downwardly decurved bill.

Two species are peculiar to India.  The Indian Courser (Cursorius coromandelicus) is spread broadly throughout that particular subcontinent where it can be seen on open plains.  A second bird, Jerdon's Courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus), was first discovered around 1848 by T. C. Jerdon.  Around the turn of the 20th Century it was last recorded in areas around Badrachalam.  After that time, attempts to find the bird were unsuccessful and it was believed for over eighty years to be extinct until it was refound in 1986.  It is currently a highly endangered species and only inhabits Sri Lanka's Malleshwara Wildlife Sanctuary.

The remaining species of Courser belong to the African areas, though the Cream Coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor), who occasionally visits Europe, breeds in Mauritania and the Canary Islands as well as in India.  Coursers have long legs and although they are classed as waders the areas that they inhabit are generally desert habitats and barren areas.

picture of Courser's bill

Picture of Courser's bill illustrating decurved shape

The name Courser was apparently Lewin's rendering (Birds of Great Britain vi. page 48) of Latham's word Cursorius, a genus established by him in 1790 for the Coure-vite of Buffon (H.N. Ois. viii. p.128) who had already seen that, though allied to the true Plovers (who now form the Charadriidae family within the Charadriiformes order), the Courser required separation. It was first known from an example taken in France (whence Gmelin called it Charadrius gallicus), and Buffon in 1781 had seen only one other, though that was from Coromandel in India, and was of a distinct species.  The third specimen, which was of the same species as the first, was killed in Kent, not later, according to Mr. Saunders (Yarrell, History of British Birds edition 4, iii. page 239), than 1785, and was kept in the British Museum.

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