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March 19, 2005

Birds Of Iraq: The Red-Wattled Lapwing

Another wader, the Red-Wattled Lapwing--Vanellus Indicus or Holopterus indicus depending upon whom one asks--is a fairly close relative of our previous wader, The White-Tailed Plover. LTC Bob writes that the Red-Wattleds are shyer that the White-Taileds, and so less easily photographed. It's a very pretty bird, though, so the results can be very striking indeed when a photographer gets lucky.

Like the White-Tailed Plover, there's not a lot about the Red-Wattled on the web. Most of what is there tends to be based on this wikipedia article on the species.

It breeds from Iraq eastwards across tropical Asia. Some northern breeders are migratory, but other populations are resident apart from seasonal dispersion.

These are conspicuous and unmistakable birds. They are large waders, the size of Northern Lapwing with black crown, chest, foreneck stripe and tail tip. The upper face, the rest of the neck, flanks, belly and tail are white and the wings and back are light brown. The bill and facial wattles are red, and the long legs are yellow.

This species is declining in its western range, but is abundant in much tropical Asia, being seen at almost any wetland habitat in its range. Its striking appearance is supplemented by its noisy nature, with a loud and scolding did-he-do-it call.

This species has a preference for marshes and similar freshwater wetland habitats. It lays 3-4 blotchy buff eggs in a ground scrape.

The food of the Red-Wattled Lapwing is insects and other invertebrates, which are picked from the ground, mainly at night.

The Birds of The Middle East guide doesn't have much to add, aside from an alternate version of the call; "pity-to-do-it" rather than "did-he-do-it." Presumably the Red's Wikipedia article, like the one for the White Tailed, was lifted from the Helms Guide to Shorebirds, but nighttime seems like an odd time for a wader to feed. At the very least they do also feed in the daytime, as this video of an Indian Red-Wattled shows.

Unlike the White Tailed Plover, the range--at least as far as most guides are concerned--of the Red-Wattled extends northward into the Kurdish areas of Iraq. This does not appear to be true, as both species have been supposedly been observed in wetlands near Kirkuk.

Haweija Marshes are reported to have been an important staging and wintering area for migratory waterfowl. Marchant and Macnab (1962) recorded a wide variety of ducks, shorebirds and other waterfowl, mostly in small numbers, on passage and in winter, including Botaurus stellaris and Marmaronetta angustirostris. They also recorded up to 2,000 Anser albifrons and 75-100 Himantopus himantopus on passage. Savage (1968) states that Anas crecca wintered in "thousands", and that Phoenicopterus ruber and Anas strepera occurred on passage. Vanellus indicus and V. leucurus are said to be common breeding species.

"Said to be" is anecdotal evidence; as such a bit of a weak nail to hang a range on, especially when it's anecdotal evidence from almost 40 years ago, but it re-emphasizes exactly how little is really known about the bird populations in Iraq.

With time and yearly surveys, we'll know more, about the lapwings as well as the other 416 species thought to be found in Iraq. We might even get lucky, and discover a colony of Waldrapps in western Iraq, or one of Slender-Billed Curlews in the southeastern marshes. Either would be a tremendous discovery in the birding world.

Hint, hint, LTC Bob.

Previous: The Greylag Goose

Next: The Collared Dove

Posted by Bigwig at March 19, 2005 01:43 PM | TrackBack
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