The Spur-winged Lapwing

05 October 2016

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The Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus is an African migratory wader species that breeds only in Cyprus and Greece in the EU. In recent years, several individuals also winter here and since 2000, Cyprus hosts a small population of resident Spur-winged Lapwings.

It is hard to confuse the Spur-winged Lapwing with another bird. Its length is 25 to 28 cm and has striking brown, black and white plumage. The back is brown, while the head, chest, tail and legs are black. It has a white rump and the side of the head and chest are also white. If you look closely you will notice its bright red eyes.

The Spur-winged Lapwing hunts insects and worms in the mud and in shallow waters and prefers areas with bare ground or low vegetation near the water to make its nest which in essence is just a small cavity in the ground. The Spur-winged Lapwing is very territorial and will actively defend its nest from other birds, but is tolerant towards individuals of the same species. It lays 2-4 eggs, mainly in April and May, which hatch in 22 - 24 days. The young immediately leave the nest and acquire full plumage in 7 - 8 weeks. If conditions are favourable, Spur-winged Lapwings may nest a second or third time in the same year.

The Spur-winged Lapwing, together with the Black-winged Stilt, are the two qualifying species of the Special Protection Area (SPA) of Oroklini Lake which is one of the top five breeding sites for this bird in Cyprus. Other breeding areas of Cyprus include Paralimni Lake, Achna dam, Aradippou wetland, Larnaka Salt Lakes and Mia Milia.

The population of the Spur-winged Lapwing in Cyprus is a little larger than that of Greece. It is estimated that around 40-60 pairs breed on the island every year, and this population is increasing. According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) this species is considered Vulnerable in the EU, and therefore Cyprus has an important role to play for the preservation of this species at EU level.

Even though this bird does not require a lot of water to be present at the wetland it is particularly sensitive to sudden changes in water level which affect its breeding success. Thanks to the LIFE project for the restoration of Oroklini Lake, which was completed in the winter of 2014, the number of Spur-winged Lapwing nests at the site has increased and during winter 2014 the biggest yet Spur-winged Lapwing flock was recorded with 85 birds. Proper water management works, fencing and the creation of special islets decreased disturbance in the area and secured more nesting areas. As a result, the number of nests of Spur-winged Lapwing in the lake has increased from 6 (in 2013) to 11 (in 2014).

A visit to Oroklini Lake during spring will reward every visitor as it is very hard to miss the Spur-winged Lapwing’s noisy calls as it sounds the alarm when disturbed or when its young are threatened, and if you happen to visit the lake early in the summer keep a look out for the cute Spur-winged Lapwing chicks and their disproportionately long legs as they slowly begin to explore the lake around them.

Spur-winged Lapwing
Spur-winged Lapwing
Spur-winged Lapwing
Spur-winged Lapwing

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