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Lapwing

All about lapwings

The lapwing is a familiar medium-large wading bird whose distinctive call gives its alternative name of Peewit. It is a regular sight throughout the year. Some lapwings are migratory – they breed in Britain and then fly to southwest Europe for the winter, or breed in Northern Europe and come to Britain for the winter months. Other lapwings are permanent British residents, living here all year round.

What to look for

The lapwing grows to 31cm long and 250gm in weight, with a large wingspan up to 87cm. It is boldly patterned in black and white with a black wispy crest on the crown of its head. The feathers on its upper body are tinged with iridescent green. Look out for the lapwing’s slow distinctive flight; its rounded wings making lazy wing beats.

Did you know?

  • The lapwing mainly eats invertebrates including flightless insects such as leatherjackets and wireworms, as well as earthworms, spiders, snails and fresh water molluscs. When feeding, it systematically scans the ground, listening, and then snatches the food with its bill.
  • The lapwing breeds from early February to May or June. The male makes dramatic aerobatic courtship displays, performing twists, turns and somersaults. This display is accompanied by a loud swishing of his wings and noisy calls, scraping the ground and showing off his chestnut under-tail feathers, in a bid to attract the female. The male also makes hollows in the soil where the female will lay the eggs. The attracted female then chooses the best nest site, lining the hollow in the ground with dried grass and leaves. She lays four olive-brown eggs, blotched with black and dark brown patches. Incubation lasts about 28 days and the chicks are able to fly after five or six weeks.

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Lapwing Printable Factsheet

Status

Lapwings have declined dramatically in the last 20 years, mainly due to the changes in agricultural practice. Farmers have drained much of the damp grassland and the wide margins of lakes and rivers have disappeared due to dredging to alleviate flooding. Wetland habitats in Britain have been consistently disappearing since the end of World War II and many of our wading birds are becoming scarce as their feeding grounds become dry land.

Habitats

The lapwing is a wader, preferring open habitats that contain plenty of water, like marshes, mud flats, sewage farms, flooded land, and ploughed fields near water. They are one of several species that have been adversely affected by the draining of wet grassland.

Where to see

Lapwings are normally seen near water and wetlands, including the Attenborough reserve. Although present in the UK all year round, lapwings become more obvious in autumn and winter when they form large flocks. These flocks frequently take to the air - their slow wing-beats making the flock appear to flicker black and white. Listen out for the “peewit” call - a good sign that there is a lapwing nearby.

 

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