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Social in nature, wanderer by habit


Scientific classification:Vanellus gregarius

The Sociable Lapwing is the rarest and most threatened of all birds that lives on the Eurasian steppes. This species breeds in Kazakhstan and Russia, and disperses through to Kyrgzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, to key wintering sites in Sudan, Pakistan and India.

The lapwing was given its name following observations of the species gathering in large flocks during migration. Their sociability could have played a contributory role in their decline.

These birds are part of the Lapwing genus Vanellus, which diverged from all other species of birds 28 million years ago! Two sociable lapwings, satellite tagged in Kazakhstan, flew more than 5,000 miles to central Sudan where they spent the winter before their return flight to breeding grounds in the central Asian republic.

The species is one of the smallest birds ever to carry a tracking device and its journey has revealed far more about its migration than scientists expected. Only now are conservationists realising how important African countries are to sociable lapwings.

Lapwings are also known as “peewits” due to characteristic high-pitched calls “pee-wit” which males produce during the mating season. Lapwings also communicate via squeaks and crying sounds.

Eggs of lapwings were consumed as delicacy in the past. Luckily, this practice is forbidden in most countries of Europe today. A major threat to this species is the conversion of steppe into arable cultivation, and illegal hunting along the species’ migratory route and in its wintering grounds.

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