Photo source: Peter Moore’s Birding Blog
What am I looking for?
A seriously cool-looking customer, the Northern Lapwing is another bird with style prowess. Found wading and dabbling on wetlands or happily rooting around on farmland with his black crest pointing towards the sky like a punk’s mohican, this fella and his mates are a sight that is sadly declining in the more rural parts of the British countryside.
In the United Kingdom it is simply known as the Lapwing, minus the prefix.
Photo source: BirdWatch
Like they’ve just stepped off a Roberto Cavalli runway, the Lapwing knows how to strut in style. Blessed with long and elegant wader legs clad in a stunning coral pink, they flash forest green plumage with hints of orange and purple, a tail dipped in black and an Elizabethan colour sitting atop a snowy white breast.
And to top it all off there’s that incredible black crest rising several centimetres from their neat little heads.
Photo source: Shropshire Community Wildlife Group
The Lapwing also goes by the name of “Peewit”, which relates directly to the call the male makes during the breeding season. The bird is also responsible for a variety of squeaking and mewing calls that tend to be much more frequent during the spring and early summer.
Photo source: Nottingham Wildlife
Where do they come from?
Similar to the Eurasian Jay the Northern Lapwing occupies a great deal of Europe, although the ones we have here in Britain stay all year round. These birds tend to do a spot of “staycationing” however, and swap their summer wetland breeding grounds for lowland pastures and ploughed fields during the colder months.
Photo source: Swopticsphoto
What about dinner?
Lapwings love a good squishy earthworm or a crunchy beetle. They have mastered the art of tapping their pinky-red feet on the ground and encouraging these creepy-crawlies to head skywards to meet an untimely death. Caterpillars, small frogs and even spiders help to add further tasty ingredients in the diet of the Lapwing, plus slugs, flies and leatherjackets.
Photo source: Thames Valley Birds
During the breeding season the male Lapwing likes to go to town to impress the ladies. In the bird world he is famous for his tumbling courtship display, where he flaps his wings to climb to a certain height and then allows them go limp, ensuring he drops dramatically out of the sky, tumbling down towards the ground like a whirling maple “helicopter” seed.
After he’s finished practising his best Red Arrows impression, the male Lapwing keeps his feet firmly on the ground and busies himself by building a beautiful nest for his future ladyfriend. He scrapes the ground as artfully as he can, often more than once to get it just perfect and then shows it off to lady Lapwings until one takes a fancy to it.
She lays three or four eggs, which take about 28 days to hatch. The chicks are walking within a day or so, and they follow their parents in the search for food soon after. Within 45 days the chicks can fly and are fully independent.
Photo source: Shropshire Community Wildlife Groups
Best place to spot?
Lapwings are becoming increasingly difficult to spot in the UK, due to the constantly changing face of British farming. Pastures and crop fields form the majority of their habitat, although fens and bogland are a popular choice too. Be prepared to get a bit muddy if you’re out looking for these fellas, but if you’re off the beaten track a bit and out in the real countryside you should be in luck.
Photo source: Mike Lane Wildlife Photography
I write the Birdgeeking series to encourage support for the RSPB, a charity established to protect both the native bird species of the United Kingdom and those further afield. Founded in 1889 to campaign against the Victorian fashion of bird plumes worn on women’s hats, the charity has since worked tirelessly to give nature a voice and educate people on the plight of some of our best-loved feathered friends.
Other than being a member I am in no way affiliated with the RSPB, but I use this weekly post to remind people to delight in how wonderful our birds are, and to consider desperately sad it would be if they were no longer around for us to look at and enjoy.