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Lapwing by Mark Hamblin

Lapwing

Vanellus vanellus

Key Facts

  • Length: 28-31cm
  • Wingspan: 84cm
  • Weight: 230g
  • Average Lifespan: 4-5 years

Familiar birds of farmlands and wetlands, lapwings can often be seen wheeling through winter skies in large, black and white flocks. As spring approaches, these flocks get smaller; some birds head back to their continental breeding grounds and others disperse to breed in the UK.

Males put on dramatic aerial displays, tumbling through the air, accompanied by their piercing ‘peewit’ call, which gives them their other, common name. Females can be spotted on nests which are simple scrapes in the mud or sand and, by late spring, cute, fluffy lapwing chicks can be seen venturing out to forage. If the nest is threatened at all, lapwings will ‘mob’ predators – attacking them in an effort to distract them from the eggs and chicks.

How to Identify

Easily recognised by its long crest, black and white pattern and the very broad, bluntly rounded shape of its wings. From a distance lapwings look black and white but, up-close, the back has an iridescent green and purple sheen.

Where to find

Widespread.

How People Can Help

Once very common, the lapwing has suffered a serious decline in numbers over recent years as a result of changes in land use and farming practices. These ground-nesting birds need low-disturbance areas to breed, and shallow waters to feed. Local Wildlife Trusts across the country are looking after wetland habitats for the benefit of wading birds like Lapwings. Ensuring breeding birds are not disturbed by passers-by, ponds and lakes have muddy shallows and shores, and farmers use wildlife-friendly farming practices are just some of the ways we’re helping. You can help too: volunteer for The Wildlife Trusts and you could be involved in everything from clearing scrub to monitoring populations or raising awareness about nesting birds. And don’t forget to keep dogs on leads in areas where ground-nesting birds are breeding.

Did you know?

As well as ‘lapwing’ and ‘peewit’, this bird is also known locally as the ‘green plover’. Its Latin name means ‘willowing fan’ and actually refers to its floppy, flapping flight. The name lapwing is thought to have derived from an Old English term meaning ‘leap with a flicker in it’ because the dense winter flocks appear to flicker as white then black is seen when the birds flap their wings.

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