At this time of year around Newstead the evening is often marked by the cries of Masked Lapwings wheeling overhead. These handsome, highly territorial plovers are well-known to locals. Less well-known is a close relative, the Banded Lapwing Vanellus tricolor.
Smaller than the Masked Lapwing, this species is strictly a bird of the plains. Small numbers gather there over winter and I came across two groups of eight at the weekend. Good fortune meant that one of the groups was more interested in a large puddle from the weekend rain, than me, watching intently from nearby. This gave me close views for about fifteen minutes at what can be often be quite a skittish bird.
In southern Banded Lapwings favour recently ploughed paddocks and closely cropped, even stony pasture, where they pick about for small invertebrates.
Banded Lapwings possess a number of distinctive features – they have a broad black breast-band, black cap and white bib. A fleshy red wattle at the base of the bill is prominent at close range. In flight a white wing bar is clearly evident.
I’ve seen Banded Lapwings in most seasons and suspect they breed out on the plains in some years, although I’ve never found a nest. They are known to be highly nomadic, flying large distances in search of good feeding and breeding habitat.