The Great Commonwealth Bird Fight: Round 4 – Lightweight

After three rounds, England stands in the lead with a solid ONE victory, and two ties with Australia.  But enough about the past, let’s move on to the next category!

Weighing in around 200-250g, we have England’s entry for the lightweight category – the Northern lapwing!

A Wonderful Wader

The Northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), also known colloquially as the Peewit after its shrill call, is a wading bird commonly found on England’s farmlands and wet grasslands. Lapwings actually have quite short legs for a wading bird, but that doesn’t stop them from getting stuck into the action.

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Splish splash! – Jo Garbutt / Flickr

The head and chest of lapwings are coloured black, white and dark blue, whilst the back and wings are covered in gorgeous iridescent green and purple feathers. They also sport a delicate wispy crest on their head, and if you’ve seen my previous entries to this competition, you’ll know I can’t resist a fancy crest! The name “lapwing” is commonly thought to originate as a description of their distinctively slow flapping wing beats during flight. But that doesn’t stop them from making impressive aerial courtship displays by diving up and down close to the ground, whilst making high-pitched calls, as you can see and hear below!

Migratory Moonbird

Some of England’s lapwings are migratory, breeding here in the summer before flying south for the winter, but many lapwings are full-time residents. During the summer, they tend to spend their time in wet natural grasslands and grassy moors, and move to ploughed fields and mudflats to find food during the winter. Lapwings feeds mainly on invertebrates such as insects, spiders and molluscs, and its favourite time for feeding is at night during a full moon. If you’re up for a little night-time bird-watching, they can commonly be seen out foraging in the moonlight.

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Showing off those wings! – Kev Chapman / Flickr

Defenders & Deceivers

The lapwing isn’t a bird to back down from a fight either. It will aggressively protect its eggs from predators and has even been known to attack horses and cows that wander too close to the nest. As ground-nesting birds, lapwing eggs and chicks are vulnerable to being snatched by predators such as foxes and scavenging birds. In the past, Northern lapwings have been observed using a clever trick to protect their young from threats. When they detect an approaching threat, the adult lapwing can run around far from the nest with a wing hanging down as if it is broken. This seemingly easy dinner lures predators away from the nest, and when the lapwing things the nest is safe, it can fly away to deceive another day.

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Splendid feathery wings – Sailesh Panchal / Flickr

So, there we have it! Give it up for the fabulous Northern lapwing! Check out Australia’s entry, the Grey butcherbird, over at Zoologist Jones and let us know which is your favourite!


4 thoughts on “The Great Commonwealth Bird Fight: Round 4 – Lightweight

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