DALS WILDLIFE SITE { WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND}

WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

The lapwing and associated conservation issues

The lapwing vanellus vanellus is placed in the Family Charadriidae and the sub family Vanellinae belonging to the Order Charadriiformes and are placed in the genus Vanellus.

Photograph by Dal

Description of the lapwing.

Plumage---from a distance the overall appearance of the lapwing is black and white particularly so when the bird is in flight. However, it is in fact dark green with a smuttering of iridescent purple above and on the breast. They are white below and on cheeks they also have a prominent crest. The under tail is bright chest nut . The throat is black in summer. The legs are dark pink, the bill black. They have a broad,pale eye stripe present in both species outside the breeding season. The long crest is a distinctive feature of both male and female birds being longest during the breeding season.

In relation to its body size the wings are medium long the neck medium short bill short, legs medium.

In flight slow direct flocks perform complicated aerial evolutions. In spring the birds have a striking aerobatic display flight in which wings make a loud "lapping" sound from which the bird takes its common name. On the ground the bird runs with short pauses in between. Wades in water.

SIMILAR BIRDS---In flight it is the only medium sized "black and white" bird with rounded wings, and at rest the only one with a crest and longish legs. Outside the breeding season they are highly gregarious often seen with other waders. They fly in large flocks. 

Photograph by Dal

Life style of the lapwing. Nest, eggs and young.

The bird is well known to country people which probably explains the reason it has many country titles such as peewit, and green plover. During the coldest months and dependent on the severity of the weather there may be large scale movement of lapwings moving south. Extreme weather may well drive many birds across the channel to Spain and France.

During early spring {later in the more northerly regions of northern England}  the birds commence their display flights over their chosen breeding grounds. These display flights are are spectacular to observe. When mating is completed the nest and eggs are produced. They are often encountered in open cultivated land. The nest such as it is, being little more than a scrape in the ground, sometimes lined with a little dry grass, may first be encountered in April {May in the more northerly regions} .

The eggs invariably four in number are very hard to locate their colour being well adapted for concealment, as is generally the case with birds belonging to this group. They are relatively large for the size of the bird and pear shaped in form being pointed at one end. They sit in the nest with their points resting together. The colour varies from brown to green { usually some shade in between the two} . The are also variably marked with large or smaller spots of black, brown and or grey.

Photograph courtesy of Andreas Trepte-Creative Commons Share Alike

The green purplish sheen is clearly visible on this lapwings plumage. 

Photograph courtesy of Arjan Haverkamp Creative Commons Share Alike

lapwing chick

The eggs are incubated for about four weeks, mainly by the female with some assistance from the male. The young chicks are immediately cared for by both parents and fledge at around 35-40 days. The tricks lapwings use to draw attention away from the nest is notorious. The male indulges in the most extravagant antics in the air. Both birds will swoop down should you inadvertently stray to near the nest. The birds come uncomfortably close and it pays to leave as soon as possible. The birds will also pretend to be injured so that would be predators head towards them and away from the nest, they take off at a surprising speed when the predators get within striking distance. They show great bravery in the air also, driving off gulls and marauding crows.

When the eggs hatch the chicks are covered with a soft down which will help them to keep warm, however, it is not rain proof and during rain they rely on their parents for protection. The chicks have an amusing appearance with legs that appear overly long, but they are mobile from day one. Even so they rely on their parents for about six weeks. The chicks first plumage has the same camouflaged colouring as the eggs they have emerged from. When danger threatens the chicks crouch low and become almost invisible in the surrounding vegetation

During the summer flocks of young birds are formed and as autumn approaches really large flocks of both young and older birds build up at traditional feeding grounds which may be farmland, marshes or mud  banks where there is a plethora of invertebrates can readily be procured.

Here in the north of England we are still fortunate enough to host large numbers that over winter in places such as Morecambe Bay and other similar situations. Many of these will be arrivals from Scandinavia and the colder parts of Continental Europe. 

Conservation issues 

According to the BTO the current status has the lapwing among 24 species of birds in the UK for which the best long term trend provides alerts to statistically significant populations declines of greater than 50% Their lowest ever population figures. Lapwings have declined continuously on lowland farmland since the mid 1980s. 

This sad decline make the lapwing a Priority species of conservation concern thus it appears on the Red list. As such a Species Action Plan {SAP} is formulated and implemented to help halt the decline and to eventually reverse it. I wish them well in this endeavour.   

Lapwing facts

Until 1960s these eggs were legally collected and sold as a gourmet delicacy.

In December 1927 a Lapwing ringed in Britain the previous summer turned up in New Foundland 2000 miles away. It was thought the bird was caught up in a series of unusual occurrences.  The bird was blown by strong winds to Scandanavia where its luck went from bad to worse as a anti-cyclone occurred. Caught up in a gale the bird was swept across the Atlantic with the aid of a strong tail wind, making this incredible journey possible in just a couple of days.

 

Familiar Wild Birds {1800's}

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