Lapwing

Vanellus vanellus

28-31cm

Appearance

This wader has wide, black and white wings which are rounded in flight. Plumages differ across the seasons, and the sexes can usually be distinguished during the summer. The summer male has dark upperparts prone to a greenish sheen with hints of purple, a black foreneck, white face, and a flush of orange beneath the tail. There's a peaked, upsweeping black crest which is shorter on the female. The foreneck is blacker in the male and his face is whiter. During winter, both adults resemble the female in summer, except the foreneck is white, and the back feathers and foreneck are buffish. The crest on a juvenile bird is shorter and it has a scalier appearance; its face is less distinctly marked.

Habitat

Breeds widely in Britain and Ireland, predominately on open land such as farms, marshes and moors.

Character

Moves around frequently in autumn and winter in flocks which shimmer black and white in flight; when flying, they seem casual, with full, gentle wingbeats. The aerobatics of courtship include a rolling and falling display with rigid wings and a humming sound. Feeds in typical plover fashion; it runs quickly then halts suddenly before tilting the body and pecking prey from the ground. In courtship, tumbles in aerobatic display during which the stiff flight feathers make a humming sound.

Food

Diet includes earthworms, leatherjackets, beetles, flies, moth caterpillars, ants, spiders, small frogs, snails and some plant material.

Breeding

Female usually lays 4 eggs in March, which she incubates for 28 days with occasional help from male. Hatchlings are covered in down and can feed themselves after a short amount of time; they can fly after approximately 35-40 days and soon gain independence.

Population

Present in the region through the year and can be quite nomadic. In the autumn there are birds which fly south to France or Spain, while birds from Russia and eastern locations arrive in the region between June and November. There are approximately 140 000 pairs in the UK and less than 10 000 in Ireland. Winter numbers are boosted to 650 000 individuals.

Observation Tips

For many people, the sound of the Lapwing is representative of the countryside. Perhaps the greatest thing to observe from this bird is the ritual display flight performed above its territory – despite a fall in numbers due to altered farming practices, this is something that can still be witnessed.

Voice

Is sometimes called Peewit due to its familiar, slightly croaky 'pee-wit' call.
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