This, perhaps the best-known British person in the wader group, can also be in some ways an untypical associated with that fascinating family, in appearance and habits.
Its broad rounded wings bear little resemblance to the narrower, more pointed and angled wings of the typical wader flying; and the flight is normally floppy and leisurely, again unwaderlike characteristics. This may also inhabit haunts for example dry arable or downland, rather than marshes and sea-shores; and it is crested head provides it with an appearance unique among British birds.
However in other respects there isn’t any mistaking the family that it belongs-nesting habits, eggs, chicks; wild, musical calls as both songs and alarms; a conspicuous plumage-pattern flying, and the formation of roving flocks immediately breeding is finished-all proclaim its affinities. Once breeding has ended, where waterlogged furrows, flooded meadows or muddy estuaries offer opportunities, the lapwing will wade as freely like a redshank and, obviously, may occupy marshy in addition to dry sites for nesting.
Aside from the characteristic swoops and tumbles, that are so noticeable an accompaniment of the spring song, lapwings also display conspicuous aerial dexterity within their wandering the fall and winter flocks, and their long-extended line-abreast formations, rippling alternately monochrome as the light strikes them, form and reform as though just for the enjoyment of disciplined flying manoeuvres.
The call is really well known that ‘peewit’ is all about as generally used as lapwing as the name of the bird; the spelling ‘pewit’ may make reference to a different interpretation of the call-certainly Tennyson tried on the extender as a rhyme for ‘cruet’.
Although, except in conditions of severe frost, lapwings are often to be seen in most localities throughout the whole year, the human population is by no means static, except at nesting-time. Many British-bred birds move southward or westward to winter, perhaps simply to south-west England or Eire, but often to France and Spain.
Those still frequenting the old haunts might be winter-visitors from as far as central or eastern Europe. (Two birds marked by the writer inside a few fields of one another are great examples of this: one, ringed like a chick in May, resulted in in the south-west of France in the following December; another, rescued from drowning after alighting on liquid sewage-sludge during wintertime, was found dead many years later, during the summer, on the borders of Poland and Czechoslovakia.) Weather-movements, possibly simply to the unfrozen coast, in many cases are resorted to, and departing or returning flocks sometimes appear to be just in front of the weather conditions accountable for them.
Along with the gaiety which the lapwing plays a role in the rural scene, its presence is welcomed by the farmer for additional practical reasons-it is a superb consumer of wireworms along with other soil pests.