Blacksmith Lapwing

29 Apr 2021

The Blacksmith Lapwing owes its name to the call it makes which sounds similar to a blacksmith shaping a glowing piece of metal on his anvil with a hammer.

This type of Plover has a spur at their carpal joint - a sharp black protrusion which they use for defence. This spur can be up to 18 mm long in the males.

The White-crowned Lapwing and as the name suggest, the Spur-winged Lapwing, as well as the African Wattled Lapwing all also have spurs on their wings. Another bird species unrelated to the lapwing yet also with spurs on their wings is the Spur-winged Goose, which can weigh up to 5 kg and whose spurs can be up to 36 mm long.

These wing spurs or carpal spurs are sharp horn-covered bone situated on the carpus of birds. The spurs point forward and grow for a few years. Some spurs are only visible in flight while some species have long spurs which can be recognized even when the wing is folded up against the body. In the males of the different species they are usually longer than in the females.

Experts like Dr Rob Simmons, who worked as an ornithologist at the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism for many years before moving to the Fitz Patrick Institute of African Ornithology in Cape Town South Africa, are of the opinion that the spurs are used while fighting. It has not been proven whether some birds are injured or even killed through the use of spurs during conflict. It is also unknown whether the size of the spurs play a role in choosing a mate or whether those belonging to a species with larger spurs are better able to defend their territory.

Author: Dirk Heinrich

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