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Vanellus vanellus

All about lapwing

With their emerald and purple iridescent feathers and stylish crest, lapwing stand out among their fellow waders. Despite its red list status, it’s still – just – the most numerous breeding wader in the UK, with estimates at almost 100k pairs, just ahead of the oystercatcher.

You might see them in spectacular wheeling flocks and hear their distinctive call. Their scientific name: Vanellus is Latin for “little winnowing fan”, that is, a specially shaped fan made for separating grain from chaff. This could be a reference to the sound lapwing wings make in flight or to its flopping flight. ⠀

Lapwings are often called “peewits”, referring to the piercing unworldly sound they make which has been described as sounding like someone twiddling the knobs on a synthesiser.

It’s reckoned that no other bird in the UK has so many regional names, as a result of the lapwing’s double-note call being described by our ancestors in different local dialects. Its various names include: chewit, teeack, peasiewheep, tuets, and pyewipe, or, more prosaically, it’s also known as a green plover.

Migration stories

In the summer months, lapwing can be found on lowland and farmland areas, as well as wetlands and marine environments, throughout the UK where they raise their young. In winter, UK numbers are bolstered by lapwing that migrate here from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and northern Europe.

Local spotlight

Lapwing can be found on a variety of habitats all around the Solent area, including the Bembridge Harbour and the Medina and Yar estuaries on the Isle of Wight, the northwest Solent, Southampton Water and Chichester Harbour.

Conservation status

Lapwing are red listed in the UK  and while they might not be listed in the Solent’s Special Protection Areas, they are important for the coastal ecosystem and form part of the non-breeding water bird assemblages which these regions are protected for. Sadly, lapwing have been in decline in Britain since the 1940s due to large-scale changes in farming techniques, which affects the areas in which they breed.

Did you know?

Lapwing once had their own parliamentary act – the Lapwing Act of 1926 was introduced to stop people collecting their eggs for food.