The Masked Avenger
An eerie call can be heard flying through the air at night as you try to sleep—“kekekekekekekek”. No it’s not a ghost—it’s the Masked Lapwing, who you might know as a plover.
If these birds aren’t making scary noises during the night, you might also recognise them as the slightly over-protective troublemakers who tried to chase you out of the park one time.
Playing fields or grassy parks are one of the lapwing’s favourite places to nest, closely followed by a nice flat roof that offers protection from humans and predators. Mum will lay up to four eggs in a small depression and then mum and dad take turns incubating the eggs and keeping an eye out for threats. While your local lapwing is nesting or looking after its babies, it will have its eyes on you so you might want to be a bit more cautious than usual.
Mum and dad will defend their gorgeous little babies from what they see as an attack, even if it happens to be an unassuming passer-by. You might get a bit of a shock if a Masked Lapwing suddenly swoops towards you or makes its loud “kekekekek” call when you get a bit close. However you’ll be glad to know that they will rarely, if ever, actually make contact with you. The lapwing is just very good at bluffing.
You might see the little spurs on their wings and worry that these birds are dangerous but again the lapwing is just pretending to be scarier than it actually is, because these spurs are just meant for show. You can see the spurs clearly in this video. The lapwing will only swoop when it has eggs or small chicks to look after, which is usually only three weeks at a time. After its babies have grown up, the lapwing will calm down and you can go about your business in peace and quiet once more.
Both mum and dad give their chicks protection, guidance and cuddles for warmth. The baby plover is very well camouflaged and independent but they still need mum and dad to show them where the best food is and to shoo away predators. Here’s a cute video of a lapwing family sticking close to mum or dad.
Being the protective parents they are, mum and dad lapwing will huddle the young chicks underneath them for warmth and protection. This funny photo makes mum lapwing look like she has lots of extra legs.
The Masked Lapwing also goes by the name Plover, Masked Plover or Spur-winged Plover. The lapwings in the north of Australia also have a slightly different appearance with a more dramatic yellow ‘mask’ on their face.
The lapwing likes to eat all sorts of insects and worms that live just below the surface of the soil. This can be a big help if you have beetle larvae eating your lawn. Keeping your lawn regularly mown, helps the lapwing find the bugs more easily and will encourage them into your garden. But look out for lapwing nests on the ground if you have a big lawn. If plovers
nest where they shouldn’t, the best way to deter them is to let the lawn grow long where
possible, or mow in the late afternoon or evening when the birds are less likely to be attracted to the feeding frenzy mowing can offer them.
If the conditions are right (warm and moist) these buddies will be able to breed at any time of year, however there is a peak during winter and spring in the south and summer to autumn in the north of Australia. So keep this in mind when you’re visiting your local park. It won’t be a problem if you just give the protective parents a little bit of space. These sheep are demonstrating how close is too close when it comes to lapwings.
Yes this buddy can make poor housing choices when it insists on raising a family in the middle of a football field but it’s not a good idea to move these nests. Not only could you end up with angry birds pecking you, the lapwing couple are likely to abandon their eggs if moved. The best thing to do is leave the eggs where they are but if they’re in a very dangerous spot, you can try placing a chair or protective object over the nest, making sure the parents can still come and go easily.
DID YOU KNOW
The Masked Lapwing gets its name from the bright yellow wattles (the fleshy bit of skin that roosters and turkeys also have) on its face and the “lapping” sound its slow wing beats make.