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Plovers and Lapwings: Charadriidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Some plovers and lapwings remain in the same area throughout the year, while others migrate between breeding habitats and wintering habitats. Most species form flocks during migration and the nonbreeding season. However, one species, Mitchell's plover, is usually found in groups of no more than six individuals. Plovers and lapwings spend a significant amount of time running on the ground, but are good fliers as well. They are active both during the day and at night. Many species are quite noisy.


Plovers and lapwings have developed a wide variety of techniques to defend their young from potential predators. They will make loud warning calls, perform what are known as distraction displays, and, in some cases, even attack predators. Distraction displays are behaviors designed to distract predators from chicks. Plover and lapwing adults may pretend to have a broken wing to draw predators away from the nest, or may pretend to be incubating eggs at "fake" nest sites to mislead predators.

Most plovers and lapwings build "nests" that are scraped indentations on the ground. One species, however, the shore plover, builds a nest at the end of a tunnel it makes through vegetation. Some species prefer to build their nests in areas that have recently been burned, in part because these areas are usually full of new plant growth, which attracts large numbers of insects. Most plovers and lapwings are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), with a single male breeding with a single female. However, there are also instances of polygyny (puh-LIH-juh-nee), in which a single male mates with multiple females; polyandry (PAH-lee-an-dree), in which a single female mates with multiple males; and cooperative breeding, in which adults other than the parents (usually the older siblings of the new chicks) help care for chicks. Females generally lay between two and six eggs at a time, with four being most common. Eggs hatch after between eighteen and thirty-eight days. The chicks are precocial (pree-KOH-shul), meaning they are covered with down at birth and able to move. Chicks generally leave the nest soon after hatching. In most species, adults do not feed the chicks. The single exception is the Magellanic plover, which is usually able to raise only one chick per breeding season. Magellanic plover adults feed chicks by regurgitating (re-GER-jih-tate-ing; throwing up) food.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsPlovers and Lapwings: Charadriidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Killdeer (charadrius Vociferus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, LAPWINGS PLOVERS AND PEOPLE