Plover (Spur-winged) Vanellus miles novaehollandiae
Sub Species: novaehollandiae
Scientific name: Vanellus miles novaehollandiae
Common names: Spur winged plover, masked lapwing, masked plover
The Spur-wing plover is a large, common and conspicuous bird native to Australia, particularly the northern and eastern parts of the continent. Vanellus miles novaehollandiae spread naturally to Southland New Zealand in the 1930s and has now spread throughout New Zealand.
This species is the largest representative of the family Charadriidae, at 35 cm and 370 g.
It has a black crown, hindneck and shoulders in front of bend of wing; smooth brown back and wings; white rump andtail tipped black. White underparts; wings have dark trailing edge. Yellow facial patch, wattlesand bill; legs and feet reddish. Spur on bend of wing usually hidden.
Juvenile has small wattles, and feathers on upperparts are narrowly edged black and buff. Flies with slow deliberate beats of rounded wings
The birds have a wide range of calls which can be heard at any time of the day or night: the warning call, a loud defending call, courtship calls, calls to its young, and others. Since this bird lives on the ground it is always alert and even though it rests it never sleeps properly.
They are most common around the edges of wetlands and in other moist, open environments, but are adaptable and can often be found in surprisingly arid areas. They can also be found on beaches and coastlines.
These birds are shy and harmless in summer and autumn but are best known for their bold nesting habits, being quite prepared to make a nest on almost any stretch of open ground, including suburban parks and gardens, school ovals, and even supermarket car parks and flat rooftops. They can be particularly dangerous at airports where their reluctance to move from their nesting area – even for large aircraft – has resulted in several bird strikes in Australia. Breeding usually happens after Winter Solstice (June 21), but sometimes before. The nesting pair defends their territory against all intruders by calling loudly, spreading their wings, and then swooping fast and low, and where necessary striking at interlopers with their feet and attacking animals on the ground with a conspicuous yellow spur on the carpal joint of the wing.
The bird may also use tactics such as fiercely protecting a non-existent nest, or a distraction display of hopping on a single leg, to attract a potential predator's attention to itself and away from its real nest or its chicks after they have commenced foraging. There seems to be some significant use of language to guide chicks during a perceived dangerous situation. Long calls seem to tell the chicks to come closer to the calling bird; a single chirp every few seconds to ask them to move away.
Attacks are most vicious on other birds and also on cats and dogs, but once the chicks reach 60% of full size after 2–3 months, the chances of this happening decrease. Strikes are much rarer on humans since they are more aware. Sometimes the bird can damage its wing in a strike but usually survives and is flightless as the wing heals. Some birds, especially those that live in residential suburban areas, may never successfully breed due to increased disturbance from domestic pets, people on footpaths and cars. Commonly two birds are seen together, a male and a female which are almost identical. Many also can be seen in groups at times, especially during feeding on coastlines. The chick reaches full growth after 4 to 5 months and will often stay with the parents for 1 to 2 years resulting in groups of 3 to 5 birds over the summer.
Spur-winged plover protection status changed in Wildlife Act June, 2010
In sand dunes
In an open field
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