The Lapwings, of which there are many forms, take their name from their slow, flapping flight. They are quite closely related to the Plovers, from which they may be distinguished by the central pair of tail-feathers having more or less of white on their basal portions, while the blunt wings may or may not be spurred, and the hind toe present or absent; in several species the head is distinctly crested. For the most part they are gregarious birds, frequenting mainly open fields, downs, or sometimes marshy ground, and occasionally the seacoast in winter. Their food consists of insects and mollusks, which are secured at least partially at night.
One of the best-known species is the common Lapwing ( Vanellus vanellus) of the northern portions of the Eastern Hemisphere, occasionally straying to Greenland, Alaska, and northern China. It is about thirteen inches long, and has the upper parts mainly metallic bottle-green, bluish, and coppery purple, the top of the head, chin, throat, and breast a uniform blue-black, while the sides of the neck and abdomen are white; the crest is very long, slender, and recurved; the hind toe is present but small. The Lapwing is one of the commonest and best-known birds of the order in western Europe, being especially abundant through-out the British Islands, where it is a resident during the whole year, and in the Arctic regions of Scandinavia and Siberia, where it is only a summer visitor. When on the ground it presents an elegant and graceful appearance, but when it takes to wing its heavy, flapping, Heron-like flight is quite in contrast. “But,” says Mr. Hudson, “no sooner does he begin to practice his favorite evolution in the air than a fresh surprise is experienced. Rising to a height of forty or fifty yards, he suddenly dashes in a zigzag, downward flight, with a violence and rapidity unsurpassed by even the most aerial species in their maddest moments, and turning like lightning when almost touching the surface, he rises, to repeat the action again and again.” The often-repeated note, which resembles the word pee-weet, has gained for it the name of Peewit in many parts of England. The nest, placed in a meadow, heath, or pasture, is a slight depression in the soil and perhaps lined with a few grass stems. The eggs are four in number, of an olive-green color, thickly spotted with black and brown; they are highly esteemed as food. These birds, in common with others of the order, have the habit of feigning injury when the nest or young are approached.