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A photo of a Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles)
Masked Lapwing

Masked Lapwing

Vanellus miles

The masked lapwing, known scientifically as Vanellus miles, is a prominent bird native to Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea. This large member of the Charadriidae family is easily recognized by its distinctive yellow spur on the carpal joint of each wing. It is a ground-dwelling bird, often seen foraging for insects and worms.

Identification Tips

Adult masked lapwings measure 30 to 37 cm in length with a wingspan of 75–85 cm. The nominate subspecies, V. m. miles, is characterized by an all-white neck and large yellow wattles, with males sporting a notable mask and larger wattles. The southern race, V. m. novaehollandiae, features a black neck-stripe and smaller wattles. In flight, the yellow wing spurs are clearly visible.

Habitat

Masked lapwings favor the peripheries of wetlands and other moist, open environments. They demonstrate remarkable adaptability, sometimes venturing into arid regions, beaches, and coastlines.

Distribution

The species is widespread across northern and eastern Australia, with the subspecies V. m. miles inhabiting coastal New Guinea and the Aru Islands. V. m. novaehollandiae is found in southern Australia and New Zealand, where it is considered a self-introduced native.

Behaviour

Masked lapwings are known for their bold nesting habits, often choosing open ground in urban areas such as parks, gardens, and even supermarket carparks. They exhibit territorial behavior, especially during the breeding season, defending their nests with loud calls and swooping attacks. The birds communicate with a variety of calls for warning, courtship, and guiding their young.

Song & Calls

The masked lapwing has a repertoire of calls, including a warning call, a loud defensive call, and various courtship and communication calls with its chicks.

Breeding

Breeding typically occurs after the winter solstice, with the birds fiercely defending their territory. They employ diversion tactics against predators and may use their yellow wing spurs in defense.

Similar Species

The masked lapwing is sometimes confused with the northern-hemisphere spur-winged plover, which is a different species altogether.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the masked lapwing consists mainly of worms and insects, which they forage for on the ground.

Conservation Status

The masked lapwing is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not currently at risk of extinction.

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