Sunday, 20 July 2008

Masked Lapwing

Masked Lapwing - Vanellus miles

Maybe I should change the header on this blog to say, " emphasis on birds" :-)

While on a shopping trip today we took a quick diversion in search for any easy targets for the new lens. Well aside from Silver Gulls, you don't get much easier than Masked Lapwings. It was actually raining at the time so it was also a good test to see how the lens would go under such conditions.

I don't think anyone in eastern or northern Australia would be unaware of these birds. Their noisy call is often heard both day and night. Just about every playing field, school yard, and air field will have at least one. There are two races of Masked lapwing. Our Tasmanian birds belong to the race novaehollandiae which also occurs through most of south-east Australia.

Their natural habitat was originally grassland and salt marsh and they are rarely far from water. The adoption of the man made habitats of pasture and lawn caused a huge increase in their population through the first half of the 20th century. The presence of humans does not deter them and they will even nest in the most unlikely places such as footpaths. Their nest is just a simple scrape lined with a few bits of straw or twigs. They usually lay 3 or 4 eggs. In 2006 I noticed one pair nesting on a busy roundabout. Unfortunately, the chicks were killed by the traffic but the parents nested again at the same spot. So far as I could tell, this time they succeeded.

Not only do they nest on the ground, they also feed on the ground or on tidal flats. They are surface feeders, primarily taking worms and other invertebrates although they have also been recorded eating seeds and leafy vegetation from time to time.

The breeding season is anytime from June to December. During this time they are seen in pairs or perhaps 3 or 4 birds. However, non-breeding birds in Autumn and winter will gather in large flocks. Recently I noticed a flock along the shore of well over 100 birds. However Michael Sharland in "Birds of Tasmania" talks of flocks of over 1,000.

Another common name for this species is Spur-winged plover. You can see the spur quite clearly on the left hand bird in photo #1.

(Click to see larger versions of the photos)

Masked lapwings - Note the wing spur

Masked lapwing - Stalking


  1. Lovely clear photos - and the lens is doing a good job. These birds are the most aggressive I know. Its not possible to walk down some of the roads around here without carrying an umbrella for protection - or else waving a big stick frantically above your head. Not nice!

  2. Thanks Mick - Yep - you can't walk down the roads here without an umbrella either but that's because it's rains all the time ;-)

    Seriously though - (puts on best serious face) - yeah they are be a bit agro at times aren't they.

  3. Mosura,
    I once saw a Spur Winged Plover at Dungeness. Very rare bird!
    Enjoy the birds!

  4. Thanks Warren - That amazing. Would it have been Vanellus spinosus from North Africa/Mediterranean area or our V. miles Either way it would be mega rarity.

  5. Hi again mosura,
    It was a Vanellus spinosus. very nice too.

  6. Hi there

    Lovely photos. When I came over with my friends a couple of years back, we noticed the difference in these birds as we travelled down from Cairns to Tasmania. Glad the new lens is giving so much pleasure to you as well as to the rest of us! (-:

  7. Thanks Warren - Wish I'd seen that - I haven't even seen Dungeness although I remember reading Bill Oddie's description of the place years ago.

    Thanks Jenny - You can see the northern race here

  8. Excellent seeing a spur! Your camera with lens handles darker or overcast days well :) These Lapwings tend to play 'chicken' with cars where I live also...

  9. hi Mosura,

    some lovely photos of these common but interesting birds. And some great information!

    I have a pair that frequent my yard most days. I love having them around, but as yet, have failed to find where they nest. Quite possibly it is down on the rocks of the river.

    One of my plovers has a "hoppy" foot at the moment, so I am hoping that nothing serious is wrong with it. They really are beaut birds to watch at length, and have some entertaining habits.

    Great post. I, for one, certainly won't get sick of your bird postings.


  10. Thanks Anonymous - yeah I was happy to get as with photos I've taken in the past they don't show up or are hidden.

    Thanks Gaye - Glad you like the bird post as I'm sure there will be more :-) I've only seen plovers in the backyard a a few occasions. I'm not sure why. We did get a Tasmanian Native Hen once which was rather amazing as they are a flightless bird and we are a couple of k's away from the nearest permanent freshwater.

  11. Mosura, I thought you might be interested to read about a beaut bird encounter I had in my backyard today:

  12. G'day Mosura,
    Great post. Wonderful pics. I recall seeing a pair of Lapwings nest inside the barrier of a fuelling depot at the local airport. Every time an aircraft pulled in, the birds were blasted in the slipstream of the propellers, and they had to cling fiercely to the ground. Strangely, they nested their for several seasons!

  13. Thanks Gaye - Commented

    Thanks Gouldiae - That's pretty amazing. I suppose it might keep the predators away.

  14. Lovely moody photos Mosura, hope you dried the lens off well. :-)

  15. Thanks Duncan - yes it did get a bit wet actually. I didn't realise at first as I was using it from the car window but the rain was coming in.