I’ve always know this species as the Spurwinged Plover, but my field guide to birds tells me that they have been renamed as the Masked Lapwing.  The name ‘Spurwing’ refers to the bony ‘spurs’ which the birds have on their shoulder, and which they can use for defence.

Appearing approximately eight months ago, the Plovers have become part of the landscape here.  Initially a pair, and after the breeding season,  four chicks appeared.  They don’t actually nest on our property – at least I don’t think they do – but they are here from dawn to dusk.  Before the chicks could fly, the family walked to our dam from the property next door.  We always knew when they were about to arrive through the extremely loud distraction calls made by one of the adults who walked separately to the group and diverted attention away from the chicks.

The family always have one of the adults on sentry duty, regardless of what they are doing, and at the slightest sign of something unusual the alarm calls ring out across the district. Nothing subtle about these birds!  They’re quite territorial too, and one of the few species who willing take on the Magpies.  On the preferred patch of grass outside the house we now have either Magpies or Plovers – rarely both together.  Increasingly, the Plovers seem to win.  Plovers also love the water though, so when they move down to the dam, the Magpies come back to the grass near the house.

It has taken me a while to compile a group of photographs which show the behaviour of the Plovers simply because it is difficult to get close enough – they are so alert.  However, I now have a few to choose from.  You will find more information about the Plovers in the captions beneath the photographs.

Plover 01
A rare photograph of the six Plovers walking in together.
Plover 02
Adult birds have the full face covered with yellow wattle. In the young birds, this is only partly formed.
Plover 03
Once here, the birds like to probe the ground for food.
Plover 04
Then it’s off to the dam for a paddle.
Plover 05
Adult and chick.
Plover 06
This is the adult in ‘sentry duty’ pose. Standing alert, on guard for any unusual noise or motion.. The adult on watch usually stands away from the others, and if threatened will call loudly to attract attention away from the others.
Plover 07
Often when I was out walking, the two adults would leave the chicks together and draw attention to themselves with loud and obvious movement. It seems they try to draw me toward them, while moving strictly away from the chicks.
Plover 08
If they really felt threatened, the family would fly to the other side of the dam. Usually chicks first, then the two adults.
Plover 09
The photograph shows the colour of the wing feathers clearly.
Plover 10
Plovers grow somewhere between 35 and 38 cm. In this photograph you can compare their height to the White Faced Heron.
Plover 11
Plovers will actively dive bomb the Magpies, but for some reason they are gentler with the ducks. They seem to take on a herding behaviour, walking toward the ducks and steering them off to the side or down to the dam. They don’t dive bomb them.
Plover 12
The resting ducks calmly get up and allow themselves to be moved away. No fuss, no bother.