Masked Lapwings (Vanellus miles) are familiar to many people as they are “large, conspicuous, noisy and often aggressive plovers” (a good description taken from Morcombe). Again, from Morcombe, “they are bold enough to claim suburban parks and gardens as territory”. They are noisy in the early part of the breeding season and will aggressively defend their nests and young by diving at intruders and may strike with their wing spurs.
There are two sub species in Australia, the Northern Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles miles) and the one familiar to us in East Gippsland, the Southern Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles novaehollandiae).
It was initially thought there were two separate species with the southern birds called Spur-winged Plovers and the northern called Masked Lapwings. However when it was decided there was only one species, the name Spur-winged Plover was ditched in favour of Masked Lapwing. Both the Southern and the Northern sub species have wing spurs.
Please click on photos to enlarge.
|Southern Masked Lapwing|
|Northern Masked Lapwing – photo taken 25 July 2013 on Magnetic Island Qld.|
I recently found a Southern Masked Lapwing bathing and then preening so I took the somewhat rare opportunity to capture some photos.
|Bathing is a vigorous activity sending water droplets flying in all directions.|
|A brief pause from bathing to check all is safe.|
|With the bathing finished preening begins.|
|The spurs are obvious in this photo.|
|Close-up of the spurs – the spurs look like they could easily draw blood.|
|An energetic shake of the feathers to dislodge water and help separate and dry individual feathers.|
|More preening with some flight feathers receiving individual attention.|
|Ah that feels better!|
|A final vigorous flap of the wings ended the preening session and my photos. The spurs look like a pair of sharp horns pointing forward and positioned to strike.|