Species profile

Name: lapwings are a group of 25 species of ground-nesting birds that are known for their slow, irregular wingbeats and shrill, wailing cry. In the UK and Europe, lapwing refers specifically to the northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus). This is the only species found in Europe and the first to go by the English name ‘lapwing’.

Appearance: lapwings are medium-sized shorebirds with medium-length legs, and bills that are usually shorter than their heads. Rarely colourful, most are black-and-white with shades of grey and brown. The exception is the northern lapwing which has an iridescent green colour. Many lapwings are boldly patterned with dark rings around the neck, strong facial markings, or boldly marked black and white wings. Many also have colourful wattles on their heads and spurs on their wings.

Size: size varies by species although they typically have a wingspan of around 70 cm and weigh around 200 grams.

Diet: lapwings feed by running quickly, then suddenly stopping, looking, and pecking at prey. The spur-winged lapwing (Vanellus spinosus) stands on one leg and moves the other back and forth to flush potential prey, including small lizards. The wrybill uses its unusual bill to extract mayfly larvae and fish eggs that cling to the underside of stones.

Did you know: the other common name of the northern lapwing is the ‘peewit’. This name comes from the unusual calls they make. During the breeding season, males fly in a crazed tumbling display. During this display, they cry out with a wheezy ‘pee-wit, wit wit, eeze wit’ call. This unusual cry gave rise to the legend of the seven whistlers – seven birds flying together by night, whose cries of ‘bewitched bewitched’ brought evil to any who heard it.

Location: lapwings can be found on shorelines, wetlands, and open areas such as pastures, moors, and tundra worldwide, except for Antarctica.

Where to see lapwings

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see lapwings in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
London Wetland Centre
very high
very good
Nairobi National Park
very good
Maasai Mara
very low
very good

Photo credit: leswhalley under a Create Commons licence from Pixabay

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