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.
The lapwing is 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.
Length: 28-31cm Wingspan: 84cm Weight: 230g Average Lifespan: 4-5 years
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.
When to see
January – December
As well as ‘lapwing’ and ‘peewit’, this bird is also known locally as the ‘green plover’. Its Latin name means ‘willowing fan’ and actually refers to its floppy, flapping flight. The name lapwing is thought to have derived from an Old English term meaning ‘leap with a flicker in it’ because the dense winter flocks appear to flicker as white then black is seen when the birds flap their wings.