Overview

Comprehensive Description

Masked Lapwings are large, ground-dwelling birds that are closely related to the waders. The Masked Lapwing is mainly white below, with brown wings and back and a black crown. Birds have large yellow wattles covering the face, and are equipped with a thorny spur that projects from the wrist on each wing. The spur is yellow with a black tip. The Masked Lapwing has two subspecies resident in Australia. The southern subspecies has black on the hind neck and sides of breast, and has smaller facial wattles. Northern birds are smaller, without the partial black collar, but have a much larger wattle, which covers most of the side of the face. The sexes are similar in both subspecies, although the male tends to have a larger spur. Young Masked Lapwings are similar to the adult birds, but may have a darker back. The wing spur and facial wattles are either absent or smaller in size. The southern subspecies is also known as the Spur-winged Plover. Voice: A loud ""kekekekekekekek"".

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Distribution

Subspecies and Distribution:


    * miles (Boddaert, 1783) - NE & S New Guinea and Aru Is to N Australia; probably non-breeding visitor to SE Wallacea. * novaehollandiae (Stephens, 1819) - E & SE Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.


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Physical Description

Size

33-38 cm

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Diagnostic Description

Masked Lapwings are large, ground-dwelling birds that are closely related to the waders. The Masked Lapwing is mainly white below, with brown wings and back and a black crown. Birds have large yellow wattles covering the face, and are equipped with a thorny spur that projects from the wrist on each wing. The spur is yellow with a black tip. The Masked Lapwing has two subspecies resident in Australia. The southern subspecies has black on the hind neck and sides of breast, and has smaller facial wattles. Northern birds are smaller, without the partial black collar, but have a much larger wattle, which covers most of the side of the face. The sexes are similar in both subspecies, although the male tends to have a larger spur. Young Masked Lapwings are similar to the adult birds, but may have a darker back. The wing spur and facial wattles are either absent or smaller in size. The southern subspecies is also known as the Spur-winged Plover. Voice: A loud ""kekekekekekekek"".

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The Masked Lapwing inhabits marshes, mudflats, beaches and grasslands. It is often seen in urban areas. Where this bird is used to human presence, it may tolerate close proximity; otherwise it is very wary of people, and seldom allows close approach.

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Trophic Strategy

Masked Lapwings feed on insects and their larvae, and earthworms. Most food is obtained from just below the surface of the ground, but some may also be taken above the surface. Birds are normally seen feeding alone, in pairs or in small groups.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

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Reproduction

At any time. Masked Lapwings may breed when conditions are suitable. Both sexes share the building of the nest, which is a simple scrape in the ground away from ground cover. This nest is often placed in inappropriate locations, such as school playing fields or the roofs of buildings. Both sexes also incubate the eggs and care for the young birds. The young birds are born with a full covering of down and are able to leave the nest and feed themselves a few hours after hatching. It is notorious for its defence of its nesting site. This is particularly the case after the chicks have hatched. Adults will dive on intruders, or act as though they have a broken wing in an attempt to lure the intruder away from the nest.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Vanellus miles

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2014

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Not Threatened.

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Population

Population
The population size has not been estimated following recent taxonomic splits.

Population Trend
Increasing
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Wikipedia

Masked lapwing

The masked lapwing (Vanellus miles), also known as the masked plover and often called the spur-winged plover or just plover in its native range, is a large, common and conspicuous bird native to Australia, particularly the northern and eastern parts of the continent, and New Zealand. It spends most of its time on the ground searching for food such as insects and worms and has several distinctive calls.

Description[edit]

In flight with wing spurs clearly visible

This species is the largest representative of the family Charadriidae, at 35 cm (14 in) and 370 g (13 oz). There are two distinct races which until recently were thought to be separate species. The Northern Australian subspecies (Vanellus miles miles) has an all-white neck and large yellow wattles with the male having a distinctive mask and larger wattles. The subspecies found in the southern and eastern states (Vanellus miles novaehollandiae), and often locally called the spur-winged plover, has a black neck-stripe and smaller wattles. (Note that the northern-hemisphere spur-winged plover is a different bird.)

The birds have a wide range of calls which can be heard at any time of the day or night: the warning call, a loud defending call, courtship calls, calls to its young, and others. Since this bird lives on the ground it is always alert and even though it rests it never sleeps properly.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Masked lapwings are most common around the edges of wetlands and in other moist, open environments, but are adaptable and can often be found in surprisingly arid areas.[2] They can also be found on beaches and coastlines. Vanellus miles novaehollandiae spread naturally to Southland, New Zealand in the 1930s and has now spread throughout New Zealand, where it is recognised as a self-introduced native and known as the spur-winged plover.[3]

Behaviour[edit]

Chick in camouflaged posture
A masked lapwing blinking (the nictitating membrane is used rather than the eyelids)
A masked lapwing feeding on a sand worm

Masked lapwings are shy and harmless in summer and autumn but are best known for their bold nesting habits, being quite prepared to make a nest on almost any stretch of open ground, including suburban parks and gardens, school ovals, and even supermarket carparks and flat rooftops. They can be particularly dangerous at airports where their reluctance to move from their nesting area – even for large aircraft – has resulted in several bird strikes.[4] Breeding usually happens after winter solstice (June 21), but sometimes before. The nesting pair defends their territory against all intruders by calling loudly, spreading their wings, and then swooping fast and low, and where necessary striking at interlopers with their feet and attacking animals on the ground with a conspicuous yellow spur on the carpal joint of the wing.

The bird may also use tactics such as fiercely protecting a non-existent nest, or a distraction display of hopping on a single leg, to attract a potential predator's attention to itself and away from its real nest or its chicks after they have commenced foraging. There seems to be some significant use of language to guide chicks during a perceived dangerous situation. Long calls seem to tell the chicks to come closer to the calling bird; a single chirp every few seconds to ask them to move away. There is a much-believed but incorrect myth that the spur can inject venom. The myth may have been based on fear of the masked lapwing's territorial behaviour. Attacks are most vicious on other birds such as ravens, and also on cats and dogs, but once the chicks reach 60% of full size after 2–3 months, the chances of this happening decrease. Strikes are much rarer on humans since they are more aware. Sometimes the bird can damage its wing in a strike but usually survives and is flightless as the wing heals. Some masked lapwings, especially those that live in residential suburban areas, may never successfully breed due to increased disturbance from domestic pets, people on footpaths and cars. Commonly two birds are seen together, a male and a female which are almost identical. Many also can be seen in groups at times, especially during feeding on coastlines. The chick reaches full growth after 4 to 5 months and will often stay with the parents for 1 to 2 years resulting in family groups of 3 to 5 birds nesting in one location over the summer.

The birds spend much of the time on the ground, searching for worms and insects to feed on.[2]

Eggs in a nest


Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

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