Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Lapwing

LapwingLapwing credit Darin Smith
Vanellus vanellus

Also known as the green plover or pee-wit, a member of the plover family.

This is a highly distinctive black and white bird with a splendid crest, wingspan70-76cm. Up close, the back is seen to be iridescent green, the cheeks are white, the under-tail coverts are orange-brown and the legs are pink. The throat goes from white (in the summer) to black (in the winter). Males have slightly longer crest and more defined black and white areas. Once a common sight on farmland; significant declines has placed the lapwing on the IUCN redlist.

Flight pattern is distinctive, with slow wingbeats that do not seem enough to keep them aloft. The call is a "pee-wit, wit, wit-eeze, wit", giving them their alternative name of pee-wit.

Seen as the "farmer’s friend", the lapwing's diet often contains large numbers of farmland invertebrate such as earthworms, beetles, flies and caterpillars that are on, or close to, the surface.

In winter, large flocks form on arable land and mud flats. They migrate south during the summer months and breed on coastal meadows, lakeside marshes, fields, arable land, moors and bogs. Males perform a remarkable display flight (Lapwing display flight clip). 3 to 4 eggs are laid in a ground scrape and are then violently defended; lapwings have been known to mob intruders (including humans, horses, cattle and foxes) on breeding grounds. Chicks are able to run moments after hatching.

The UK population of the lapwing fell by at least 45% between 1970 and 2003. There is a Somerset Species Action Plan for lapwing (Somerset Lapwing SAP). For information on how to manage land for Lapwings go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/conservation/species/casestudies/lapwing.asp.
 

Photo credit D.Smith