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9

Masked Lapwing

(Vanellus miles)
Alternate name(s): "Spur-winged Plover", "Wattled Plover", "Alarm-bird"
Aboriginal name(s): "baaldarradharra" [gamilaraay, yuwaalaraay]

Size: 35-39 cm
Weight: 370 g (average)

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Masked Lapwing at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "miles"

ADULT

Full-frontal view of an adult Masked Lapwing; note the absence of black streaks down the sides of the neck that is typical of this race and the very restricted forward vision
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Frontal view of a Masked Lapwing
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Near-frontal view of a Masked Lapwing on the edge of a sealed road (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Wyndham, WA, January 2016]

Lateral view of a Masked Lapwing; note the prominent spurs
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Lateral view of a Masked Lapwing (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Tiwi Island, NT, March 2013]

Lateral view of a Masked Lapwing
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Lateral view of a Masked Lapwing (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Pickertaramoor, Melville Island, off Darwin, NT, December 2016]

Dorsal view of a Masked Lapwing
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Masked Lapwings resting on a lawn in an urban park
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

Two Masked Lapwings in flight
[Fogg Dam CR, NT, August 2014]

Race "novaehollandiae"

ADULT

Close-up portrait of a Masked Lapwing, with a detailed view of the facial wattles (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, May 2016]

Frontal view of a Masked Lapwing
[Urunga, NSW, August 2015]

Masked Lapwing resting on a lawn; they can be very relaxed around humans when accustomed to them, but usually keep their distance in a natural environment
[Iluka NR, NSW, February 2012]

Lateral view of a Masked Lapwing
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, May 2006]

This Masked Lapwing is strutting its stuff in an urban park (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Near-dorsal view of a Masked Lapwing (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Dorsal view of a Masked Lapwing (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Lateral and dorsal view of Masked Lapwings
[Epping, NSW, April 2006]

Family of Masked Lapwings taking some interest in the photographer's activities

Masked Lapwing taking a bath while its partner is keeping an eye on the surroundings
[Goran Lake, NSW, April 2012]

This photo clearly shows how Masked Lapwings earn their second common name as "Spur-winged Plovers"
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2011]

This lateral view clearly shows how Masked Lapwings earn their second common name as "Spur-winged Plovers" (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
{Mudgeeraba, Gold Coast, QLD, September 2015

Two Masked Lapwings in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2011]

Frontal view of an immature Masked Lapwing (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, February 2013]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-frontal view of an immature Masked Lapwing
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

Near-lateral view of an immature Masked Lapwing (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, February 2013]

Lateral view of an immature Masked Lapwing
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

Lateral view of an immature Masked Lapwing stretching its wings (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, February 2013]

Lateral view of an immature Masked Lapwing stretching its wings (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, February 2013]

Dorsal view of an immature Masked Lapwing
[Near Old Bar, NSW, September 2011]

Family of Masked Lapwings on a paddock (one of two chicks visible)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2016]

Close-up lateral view of a Masked Lapwing chick
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2016]

Masked Lapwing chick on the side of a gravel road (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Cassilis, Swifts Creek, East Gippsland, VIC, December 2014]

For those who like diversity: Pacific Black Duck (front left), Royal Spoonbill (right) and Masked Lapwing (rear left)
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jul - Nov Eggs: 3 - 4 Incubation period: 28 days Fledging age: 35 days

The breeding season depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical north Masked Lapwings breed Nov - May. Given the right conditions, they can breed any time of the year.

The young are "precocial", which means that they leave the nest almost immediately after every chick has hatched (which can be within hours of the last chick hatching). They follow their parents, who lead them away and show them how to feed themselves. The chicks do not return to the nest.

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Scrape Material: Bare soil, possibly a few twigs or dry leaves Height above ground: N/A

Masked Lapwings are ground-nesting birds that will nest almost anywhere. They choose places for nesting that to humans may seem strange, such as the middle of traffic roundabouts. But when reasoning like a bird, one will realise that a roundabout keeps away foxes, which is important to ground-nesting birds, even a species as combative as Masked Lapwings.

Race "miles"

Relatively elaborate Masked Lapwing nest, nicely lined with grass, with 4 eggs in it (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Lake Argyle, near Kununurra, WA, July 2010]

Race "novaehollandiae"

Masked Lapwing, race novaehollandiae (Spur-winged Plover), sitting on its nest taken from a distance, because the bird will retreat and try to distract an intruder's attention from the nest when disturbed
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2005]

Masked Lapwing nest with 4 eggs in it
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2005]

Here a more grassy Masked Lapwing nest (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, August 2015]

While these tiny Masked Lapwing chicks were hatching... (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, August 2015]

... the parents, according to the photographer, were "not at all happy" (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, August 2015]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 46 x 33 mm Colour: Olive-green with dark-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Zoom onto the Masked Lapwing eggs shown in the photo above; click on image to see the eggs laid in the same nest a year later
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2005/2006]

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Pair/family

Masked Lapwings return to the same nesting site every year and place the nest in the exact same spot, as precisely as they can remember. When there are eggs in the nest (just a scrape in the ground) or chicks around, one had best not approach too closely. Plovers are not afraid to swoop on, and make contact with, humans venturing too far.

People with decades of bird-watching experience report that in the past Banded Lapwings were the most common type of lapwing in inland NSW. These days their numbers have declined drastically, at least in north-west NSW, and the dominant species is now the Masked Lapwing. One possible explanation for this shift could be that Banded Lapwings prefer shorter grass than Masked Lapwings, which has become less abundant with the shift from sheep to cattle brought about by the decline in the price of wool.

Food, Diet

Masked Lapwing with its prey, a worm
[Urunga, NSW, August 2015]

One animal's refuse is another's resource; immature Masked Lapwing poking around in cow dung
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2008]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

plover_20140816.mp3 miles
(Darwin, NT)
Various © MD
 
plover_art_20140123_2.mp3 novaehollandiae
(SE QLD)
Warning call © ART
plover_20140330.mp3 novaehollandiae
(NW NSW)
Warning/ departure © MD
plover_art_20140123.mp3 novaehollandiae
(SE QLD)
Alarm call © ART
plover_20150327.mp3 novaehollandiae
(NE NSW)
Alarm calls (in-flight) © MD
plover_20160910.mp3 novaehollandiae
(NE NSW)
Warning calls (in-flight);
defending chicks
© MD
plover_20150718.mp3 novaehollandiae
(NW NSW)
Arrival © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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