Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
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Lapwings eat earth worms (and other soil invertebrates) as well as insects, in particular beetles. They can also be known to eat cattle dung if the weather is bad enough! They are sometimes known as farmers’ friends as they eat species which are harmful to crops.
The Lapwing is also commonly called a ‘Peewit’, in imitation of its shrill “peeooo-wit” call. Lapwing flocks usually number over a hundred. Having gathered near feeding areas, these can then be seen flying to warmer conditions, sometimes high above cities. A very large flock can reach thousands. During the upland breeding season, males attract females by scraping out of the nest. Complicated and acrobatic flying displays follow, giving the Lapwing its name due to the tumbling, flapping and humming involved. One characteristic move is for the male to dive down twisting and spinning, only to pull up at the last minute. They are extremely agile, and can also take flight and turn in order to scare or mob predators, which range from foxes to gulls. A life span of up to five years is typical in the wild.
Lapwings nest out in the open. In wetlands they will create a shallow scrape with a lining of vegetation, and in drier areas nest on a mound or tussock. They lay four eggs, and these are smooth and brown or olive in colour, marked by spots and streaks. The eggs hatch after 3 to 4 weeks.The young Lapwings can feed on worms after only hours, and learn to fly within 5 to 6 weeks. The greatest danger comes when the newly hatched Lapwing must move from the nest to a feeding area within hours. Nests are vigorously defended from predators, such as magpies, or intruders which may include grazing animals such as cows or horses!