Lapwings: the other springtime swooper

Wednesday, 16 August 2023

  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

Lapwings: the other springtime swooper

As the days start to grow longer with the retreat of winter, a bird’s mind turns to breeding. And so it is that spring is the season where people come into conflict with nesting birds most often.

Of course, it’s the Magpies which grab most of the headlines with their dive-bombing antics, but there are plenty of other birds which regularly swoop at people during the nesting season, and one of the most persistent is the Masked Lapwing.

When heard in the depths of a winter’s night, these familiar birds’ wap-wap-wap-wap calls provide a comforting tone, but the same calls in springtime, given as you walk across a football ground, golf course or grassy wetland are anything but comforting, as they may be a prelude to a concerted attack.

While incubating a clutch of eggs, lapwings are often mild mannered, performing a graceful distraction display with a bowed head and outstretched wings. However, after the mottled, fluffy young have emerged from their eggs it’s a different story — the swooping begins.

Often swooping from a great height, an attacking lapwing doesn’t always make contact, but when it does, it’s seldom just a glancing blow — it hits you with considerable force, sometimes hard enough to leave a bruise, even if its prominent yellow wing-spurs don’t puncture your skin. Unlike other swoopers, lapwings don’t aim only for your head — they are just as content to strike you in the back or even on the buttocks!

They’re persistent too, not giving up until you’ve fled the area. One victim in Tasmania retreated to his car while under attack, and even as he sheltered inside, the lapwing continued to strike the vehicle!

*Remember, harming a native species is against the law.