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A winter visitor to Dorset, often in large flocks.


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Lapwing: pee-wit or green plover

Post date: Thursday, 23 January, 2014 - 00:00

It's not so many years ago that the lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) could be seen in spring over farmland across Dorset displaying with its wonderful 'swooping' flight and amazing electronic 'pee-wit' sound. Sadly, as a breeding bird in southern England, it now seems quite rare so it is always good to welcome them back as they come south to spend the winter with many other wading birds. 

In winter they can be seen on wet farm fields or around scrapes and hollows in Poole and Christchurch harbours or at Radipole/Lodmore in Weymouth. The often occur in quite large flocks and when they take flight they are quite distinctive because of their 'lapping winged' style! That may sound odd but I am sure you know what I mean if you have seen it.

The lapwing will always be a favourite of mine as one of my earliest memories is of my dad taking me, on his bike, out into the New Forest to see these birds. They were quite common in 'the Forest' back in the early 1950's. He called them pee-wits, the picture book of birds I had called them green plover but today the common name seems to have standardised on lapwing.


Lapwing in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Post date: Sunday, 13 January, 2019 - 18:08

One of my earliest memories of nature is my father taking me out into the New Forest near Beaulieu where we lived to see the lapwing nesting in a bog there; that was back in the 1950s and times have changed. The lapwing is now a scarce nesting species in southern England and I am not at all sure any nest in Dorset. They were connected with Tadnoll not so long ago but I am pretty sure the attempted nest failed and they have not been back since. I may be wrong, I may have missed more recent news.

Whilst lapwing can be seen in Dorset through much of the year reports are few and far between with just small number of tweets each week. The weekly chart is quite unusual as it shows between 1 and 5 reports most weeks but in week 9 this rises to 33 in March. There were also far more records in 2018 than 2017 and that spike in reports coincides with the bitterly cold 'beast from the east' and shows how bitter weather will force birds to move and what we witnessed that week were large numbers of hungry birds desperately looking for unfrozen ground where they could feed. These large flocks almost certainly had to move down into France and Spain to escape the adverse weather here in Britain. The 'beast' hit ground feeding birds very hard indeed.

Although waders they are generally found feeding on farmland but in Dorset the majority of reports come from coastal locations especially those where there are shallow, flooded scrapes and so Lytchett Bay, Sunnyside Farm, Abbotsbury and Lodmoor seem to produce the most reports.

In my experience the best views of lapwing can be had at Lodmoor in Weymouth during the winter months.    


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Lapwing
Alternative Name(s) Green Plover or Pee-wit
Scientific Name Vanellus vanellus
Status Locally frequent
Interest Level
Species Family Plovers
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
Preferred Environment
  • Farmland
  • Mudflats
Look for The green plumage, unique amongst waders
Additional Identification Notes
  • Probably no longer nests in Dorset and seen mainly as a winter visitor but nay be seen at any time of year
  • Usually in large flocks and make an impressive sight in flight
  • The have a particularly 'lazy' flight which gives them their most common name of the lapwing 
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