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What is a Lapwing?

The lapwing is one of the most distinctive birds found in the British countryside with its long black crest that sweeps back and upwards. Broad, rounded wings with a predominantly white underside and acrobatic aerial displays during the breeding season make it very distinctive when seen. It is present across most of Europe with flocks migrating to the British Isles from eastern Europe during the winter months.

Why is the Lapwing important to the Surrey Hills?

The condition of lapwing habitat and successful breeding is threatened by:

  • The move away from spring-sown agricultural crops
  • The loss of wet grasslands through drainage, land use intensification and potentially through climate change
  • Decrease in insect-rich habitats
  • Disturbance to nesting sites
  • Imbalance between predator and prey species

What habitat does the Lapwing like?


Permanent pasture and rough grazing (hills, heath and moorland) accounts for about 58% of the total utilised agricultural area in England of 17.36 million hectares. This rises to nearly 65% if temporary grassland (under 5 years old) is included. This figure will include specific grassland types such as chalk grassland, dry acid grassland and floodplain grazing marsh but the majority will be agriculturally improved pastures that support the livestock sector.

The lapwing is a ground-nesting bird preferring spring-sown crops and extensively managed pastures that provide some cover and protection but in relatively open settings with reasonably long views.

What can be done to benefit the Lapwing?

Good management and habitat creation opportunities for the lapwing consists of:
  • Spring-sown crops
  • Extensively managed grassland, usually in the form of light grazing with a combination of short sward patches and tussocky areas.
  • Proximity to feeding areas of wet grassland or grassland with pools, scrapes and other wet areas.
  • Provision of insect-rich habitat close to potential nesting sites.


Creating and managing areas for the Lapwing will help deliver the following benefits to communities:
  • Clean water
  • Clean air
  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards
  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

These illustrations are by an artist taking part in a programme delivered by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. This series of 30 Surrey Hills Indicator Species were commissioned by Surrey Hills Society and funded by Surrey Hills Trust Fund as part of the Making Space for Nature Exhibition.