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Lapwing

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Latin name: Vanellus vanellus

Family: Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

Description of the Lapwing

The Lapwing is a large wader with a distinctive splendid crest.  It is black above and white below. The upper parts are beautiful, iridescent dark green and purple. Its breast and cheeks are white, its under-tail feathers are orange-brown and its legs pink. In summer its throat is black and white in winter. The male birds have a longer crest, blacker breasts and whiter faces.

The juveniles and females have a shorter crest and have a scaly black appearance. Their wings are narrower and their heads are less strongly marked.

In flight the lapwing has a rounded-winged shape and a slow wing beat. The lapwing male has a very spectacular flight. They wobble, zigzag, roll and dive while calling to advertise their presence to rival males and potential mates.

Breeding

The lapwings nest in loose groups. They need a mosaic of habitat and different conditions for nesting and chick rearing. The nests are a scrape in the ground lined with plant materials. Usually the nests are in open areas, because the lapwing needs a good all-round view from the nest to spot predators. They don’t tend to build their nests on bare ground or short vegetation.

The female lapwing lays 4 smooth, non-glossy, stone coloured eggs from late May to June. Both parents incubate the eggs and after 3-4 weeks the Chicks hatch. Soon after hatching the lapwing family moves to a suitable area with vertebrates and low vegetation, especially with flood pools and damp patches. After 5-6 weeks the chicks are ready to fly.

The lapwings have only one brood per year, but they lay replacement clutches if eggs are lost.

Size

Long: 28-31 cm (11-12.5")

Wingspan: 70-76cm (28-30")

Weight: 150-300g (5.5-11oz)

Historical Info

The number of lapwings began to decrease in the middle of the 19th century. These early declines were caused by large scale collection of eggs for food. The introduction of lapwing Act in 1926 prohibited this and numbers rose again.

Since 1940 declines have been driven by large-scale changes to farming. Around 1960 numbers stabilized at a lower level with another sharp and sustained decline starting in the mid 80’s. The number of lapwings have halved in the last 11 years - currently in the UK in the breeding season there are 156,000 pairs and in winter there are 1.6-2.1 million pairs.

The Lapwing's Habitat

The Lapwing is a familiar farmland bird, especially in lowland areas. In breeding season it prefers spring-sown cereals, root crops, permanent unimproved pasture, meadows and fallow fields. It’s also found in wetlands with short vegetation.

In winter lapwings flock on pasture and ploughed fields. They leave upland areas after breading season and move to lowland fields for winter. A Large number of Northern European birds arrive in the UK in autumn for the winter.

Diet

The lapwing eats invertebrates (small animals without a spine) such as earthworms, beetles, flies and caterpillars. Plants and seeds are not so common in their diet.

Threats to the Lapwing

The main threat of the lapwing is the changing in farming methods:

  • Increase in areas of grassland converted to arable farmland.
  • Reduction in uncultivated grassland through increased hill farming.
  • Drainage and improvment of marginal land.
  • Introduction of chemical fertilisers and pest control which leads to a reduction of food availability
  • The switch from spring to autumn-sown crops which are unsuitable for nesting, because the autumn-sown crops are too high in spring.
  • Trampling by livestock
  • Earlier cutting for silage and lower food availability
  • Removal of mosaic habitat (various habitat types in the same area)