Swept Away by the Hurricane: Northern Lapwings

Northern Lapwing

Ernie Allison is a nature writer with a particular interest in birds. He is dedicated to use his writing skills to bring awareness to conservation issues concerning birds. To help further this mission, he writes for the bird feeder provider, birdfeeders.com

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there has been a lot of talk among birders about which rare sightings they might be able to manage. Many species that are not often seen in the United States were spotted during and after the storm swept the Eastern Coast. These include the Pomarine Jaeger, Petrels, Northern Gannets, Ross’s Gulls, and even some Northern Lapwings.
While Northern Lapwings are very common in Europe, they are a rare site in North America, rarely coming to shore. Recently though, there were four sightings of the Lapwing in Massachussetts. I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some facts about this bird that may not be familiar to many Americans.

Did you Know?

  • Northern Lapwings are also known as Lapwings, Peewits, and Green Plovers.
  • Lapwings are monogamous, mating involving a complicated ritual.
  • Only member of its genus, Vanellus, commonly seen in the British Isles

Alone Together for Life

Northern Lapwings are mostly monogamous, and they take the fact that the mate they choose will be for life very seriously. This means that mating involves ritual bowing, tumbling, and in-flight acrobatics. If the antics impress, the male and female incubate 3-5 eggs per year.

Lapwings primarily stay in pairs, raising their young for about one month before sending them from the nest. Pairs usually keep to themselves, but will nest near other lapwings if conditions are exceptional.

Blown Away from Home

Wading birds such as lapwings usually stay on the surface of the water, but storms such as hurricanes disrupt their normal habits. While some birds manage to out fly the storm, others seek refuge from the winds in the eye of the storm. Once in the eye, the birds are basically stuck there until they reach land or the storm dissipates. This means that they end up in places that are not in their normal migratory pattern. This is why many birders will follow hurricanes in hopes of seeing rare species. With Sandy falling so late in the year, the unusual sightings are greater than ever, meaning that birders in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and more had great opportunities to see species that they normally would not have been able to.

Living Habits

Northern Lapwings inhabit lots of different places, from wetlands to deserts. They primarily live in Eurasia. They eat earthworms and other invertebrates. They are not a “backyard bird”, so if you want to spot one of these versicolor-winged creatures, you’ll want to visit marshes, swamps, or other areas they’re known to frequent. There are certainly worse excuses to visit Britain.

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