Lapwing

Vanellus vanellus

About

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 it

Widespread.

Habitats

When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people 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.

Local information

Lapwings have long been associated with flood plain meadows and arable fields of Worcestershire. During the breeding season they disperse across farmland throughout the county, favouring bare soil or short grassed meadows. Post breeding they tend to flock together at wetland sites, preferably with an open aspect and limited disturbance.

Lapwings have experienced a significant decline, estimated at 43% of the UK population between 1998 and 2005.  This is due to changes in agricultural practices such as spring or early summer harvesting which can damage or destroy nests before breeding is completed and use of pesticides that have reduced the availability of insects on which the young chicks feed.

They are a key Biodiversity Action Plan species in Worcestershire, due to their decline as a breeding species and as an indicator of the health of our wet grasslands and floodplains.

In Worcestershire they are most commonly found in locations alongside the Severn and Avon rivers. The Wildlife Trust has the Gwen Finch, Hill Court Farm and Grimley Brickpits nature reserves where lapwing are regularly present but due to the sensitivity of these sites public access is not permitted and views can only be had from nearby footpaths.

Upton Warren is the only Worcestershire Wildlife Trust nature reserve that is publicly accessible where Lapwing can be regularly seen.
 

Species information

Common name
Lapwing
Latin name
Vanellus vanellus
Category
Birds
Wading birds
Statistics
Length: 28-31cm Wingspan: 84cm Weight: 230g Average Lifespan: 4-5 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as a Red List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.