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Farmland Wading Birds Information Note: Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Peesie, Teuchat (Scots); Curracag (Gaelic)

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The Lapwing, commonly known as peewit, is a distinctive farmland wader, which has suffered severe population decline and has therefore a red conservation status. Scotland’s Lapwing population has declined by 56% from 1995-2018; most recent population estimate is 71,500-105,600 pairs (Foster et al., 2013)


  • A black and white wading bird with a green tinted back & distinctive crest & black crown.
  • In its wavering flight it shows a round-winged shape and distinctive black & white plumage.
  • The wheezing “pee-wit” calls can be heard from March until May (Click here to hear calls).
  • The male wobbles, zigzags, rolls and dives while calling to advertise his presence to rival males and potential mate.
An adult lapwing sitting on short grassland with a young chick standing in front of her. Photo credit and copyright to RSBP
An adult lapwing with an open beak, standing in a filed of species rich grassland full of yellow, pink and white flowers. Photo credit and copyright to RSPB

Habitat preferences

  • Flock on pasture & ploughed fields in winter.
  • Return to inland breeding areas from mid-late February until late July, then return to the coast.
  • Prefer short dry (ca. 5cm) vegetation on grassland, spring-sown crops, or fallow land, where they forage on worms & insects.
  • Also nest on heath, bogs, or wetland with short vegetation adjacent to improved pasture.

Nesting behaviour

  • Nest is a scrape in the ground, lined with a variable amount of plant material.
  • Nest away from trees & buildings to provide an all-around view from to spot predators.
  • Lay clutches eggs (up to 4) in April, that hatch in early May.
  • Replacement clutches hatch by June.

Key considerations

  • Crofters/farmers can contribute to the survival of wading birds
  • In favorable conditions, Lapwings form loose colonies of several pairs to defend from predators.
  • Flocks of migrant lapwings can also be seen inland throughout autumn and mild winters
A lapwing nest sitting exposed in some unimproved grassland. Photo credit and copyright to Stephen Inglis
A lapwing nest located close to a herd of beef cattle. The nest is exposed and in a shallow rut within the field of short grassland. Photo credit and copyright to Daniel Brown

For further information, search for waders at the following sites:


QR code for link to the call of a Northern LapwingScan this QR code or click here to link to a recording of the distinctive, alarm call of the Lapwing

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Practical management options

  • Although their habitat requirements differ slightly, broadly similar measures will benefit Lapwing, Curlew, and Oystercatcher.
  • Manage grazing to create a predominately short (ca. 5 cm) sward in spring, but with some tussocks to cover from predators.
  • For Lapwings, exclude grazing from early April until mid-May, but ideally keep the stocking rate <1 Livestock Unit (LU)/ha until early June to reduce the risk of trampling of any late or replacement nests.
  • Bare or sparsely-vegetated fallow land can provide an alternative to spring-sown crops for nesting lapwings and oystercatchers.
  • Create open, shallow pools or scrapes within the pasture to hold water from March –June.
Map showing the Relative Abundance of Lapwing (Breeding 2008-2011)

Lapwing abundance in Scotland during the breeding season. Map reproduced from Bird Atlas 2007–11, which is a joint project between BTO, BirdWatch Ireland and the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club. Map reproduced with permission from the British Trust for Ornithology.


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