Saturday, September 15, 2012

Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles

Photo taken 13 October 2012 by the Tenterfield Creek
Masked Lapwings, or commonly known as Plovers, are not your average bird. I have nicknamed these birds in Tenterfield "the birds that never sleep". They can be heard during the night time calling out if they are disturbed.

Masked Lapwings are normally sighted in pairs throughout the entire year. Only single or unmated juveniles seem to flock together in small groups in the non-breeding seasons.

These birds are one of the more commonly sighted birds in Tenterfield and can be seen together in open paddocks. They are always on the alert for any danger, and you will hear them before you see them, generally. These birds are alerted to your presence before you get anywhere near them, sometimes even before they can see you, so I've noticed. Their hearing is exceptional and they squark at the slightest disturbance of grass or gravel/dirt being trodden on.

For some unknown reason Masked Lapwings will spend a great deal of time in paddocks with cows and/or horses and are not disturbed by these large animals. Yet when humans are around they are disturbed by our presence.

Plovers eat insects they find in the ground. What else they eat I do not know. Depending upon the location of where they decide to lay eggs, which is generally in Spring (or October of each year), an open water source is usually nearby - within walking distance most times, whether it be the Tenterfield Creek or a culvit runoff water pipe that is attached to the side of the road.

Masked Plovers are one of the bird species that swoops you when they have chicks that have left the nest. They only swoop if you get too close to their chicks. Both parents will swoop you, or any other animal like a cat or dog, that is in the immediate area of their chicks. They can do some serious damage to you if they get their claws into your skin as they have spurs on their feet which also contains toxins.

The breeding rate of Masked Plovers in Tenterfield is poor to average, depending upon the location of where they breed. The closer they breed to the CBD of Tenterfield the higher chances of them losing their chicks to either a cat or some other animal, or to their chicks being run over by cars. Once this happened (two years ago) in the park area directly behind Bi-Lo, and the two Plovers mourned their offsprings' death for several weeks before they moved on and left the area. They seemed very disheartened by their loss and seemed to lose hope just to stay alive. They never nested in that area again.

Because of the severity of the drought that seems to be going on and on and on as each year passes, Masked Plovers are taking their time in finding the right location to breed right now. They seem to be delaying breeding. Last year I did not see any Masked Plover chicks at all, so I'm guessing these birds will put off breeding in really bad seasons, just like some Kangaroos do. These birds generally have chicks out of the nest before the Australian Magpies do. They generally begin swooping you one week before Australian Magpies begin swooping. But, back in 2009 I think it was, there were some odd swooping behaviour of Masked Lapwings when it was not breeding season. It was about July of that year when one Plover began swooping at the back of Bi-Lo (the park area). Around the same time or a month beforehand an Australian Magpie swooped me. Unnatural behaviour due to the drought or the birds' biological clocks being thrown out of whack? It's possible.

The Masked Lapwing numbers in Tenterfield have begun to decline in the last 3 years. Some of the adult breeding pairs have actually moved out of Tenterfield, the remaining pairs are not breeding at all as far as I can tell. Masked Plovers may be another species that finally moves out of Tenterfield if this drought continues and the rain continues to cease falling.


  1. what food do they eat?

  2. ^Thats my comment up there^
    I live in Tenterfield and I got plover eggs and there gonna hatch soon! So im gonna care for them and I need to know what food they eat.

    1. Thank you so much for leaving a comment. Great to see another local interested in the birdlife around here. Are you from Tenterfield, NSW and or from Tenterfield, Melbourne, VIC? I really can only guess what plovers eat but on birdsinbackyards website it says they eat insects and their larvae and earthworms from just below the surface of the ground, and sometimes they eat insects on the surface. That sounds about right to me as I've never seen them in a tree or any other place where other food higher up can be found.

      I wouldn't recommend trying to take care of the plover eggs yourself. Let the parents do it. If the parent birds are still around the best thing you can do is try and keep cats away from the eggs. If the parent birds have abandoned the eggs it is probably because the eggs are sterile and didn't hatch when they were supposed to. This means the two adult birds will either try again next year or will separate and the female will find a new mate before next Winter/Spring.

      Over where I live plovers chicks have already hatched and are flying about the place with their parents already. I'm not sure how many chicks hatched as they've been hiding the chicks really well. So well in fact I haven't been able to take any photos of the chicks yet.

      What area of Tenterfield do you live in? I live in the south-west area.


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