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  • Julie

Pee wit!

lapwing in breeding plumage

Lapwing in breeding plumage on the machair

Lapwing in flight

I photographed these beautiful Lapwings at the RSPB Balranald reserve, within 2 minutes walk from the cottage. Lapwings (latin name Vanellus vanellus) are commonly known as Peewits because of the call they make. Shortly after they arrive here in North Uist, they can easily be seen performing their amazing aerial courtship displays over the Machair in the west. Their plumage has wonderful iridescent colours which are most vibrant in Spring.

Throughout the UK mainland, the number of Lapwings has recently declined significantly and they are now on the official red list of endangered species.

Lapwings prefer wetland areas to nest and require a mosaic of habitats; North Uist is perfect for them.

The Lapwing nest is just a scrape in the ground, lined with a variable amount of plant material. The birds need a good all round view from the nest to spot predators and therefore make their nests either on bare ground or in short vegetation. They often choose rough or broken ground which helps to conceal their nests . Spring sown crops and rough grazing are ideal.

Lapwings lay clutches of four cryptically coloured eggs from late March to early June and their chicks hatch 3-4 weeks later. The chicks are covered in down when they hatch and are able to walk and feed within hours.

The lapwing is fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; it an offence to kill, injure or take an adult lapwing, or to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents.

Only about 25-40% of chicks survive to fledging. Most of the chick mortality occurs in the first few days after hatching when chicks are most vulnerable to cold or wet weather, or venture away from the nest to reach feeding areas. The further chicks have to go to find food, the lower their chance of survival.

Once the birds have reached adulthood, they can expect to live a further 4-5 years. The oldest known individual was aged about 20 years. Lapwings normally breed again one year after fledging.

Seeing these amazing birds and listening to their unique call always makes my day.

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