The Lapwing or Peewit (Vanellus cristatus or vulgaris), Fig. 29, belongs to the Grallatores or Waders, and is included in the Pressi-rostral or compressed bills section of the order. The beak, crown of the head, and the tuft are black, the back and wing coverts are also black, tinged with purple and copper colour, the lower part of the breast and belly are white, and the claws are black. The wings are long and the flight powerful, whilst the legs are elongated, the toes slender and short and connected at their bases by a web, so that running and wading may be performed with equal facility. The nest is a mere hole or depression in the surface of the ground, either in grass or arable land, with a few bits of dried grass, bents or rushes at the bottom. The eggs are of a dirty olive colour spotted with black, and four are generally found in each nest. The young run about soon after they are hatched, and are carefully tended by the parent birds, who divert any one from the progeny by fluttering around him, even assuming disablement to distract and invite pursuit.

The Lapwing or Peewit.

Fig. 29. - The Lapwing or Peewit.

The lapwings or peewits are gregarious, but dispersing and pairing during the breeding season. They frequent marshy ground, meadows and fields, also moorland, and in severe weather the sea-beach. They feed in the evening and devour worms, slugs, wireworms, beetles, aphides, the larvae of various insects that infest grass, cereals, root crops and other cultivated plants, and Crustacea. On opening the crop of a lapwing that had been shot it was found to contain several wireworms, and it was calculated that this bird, when living, would devour a hundred wireworms in a day. For the services rendered to the grazier, farmer, and the cultivator of the soil generally, the eggs of the peewit are collected by the thousand to supply the great demand for them as luxuries of diet. This is all the more deplorable as the peewits are protected in close time throughout Great Britain by the Wild Birds' Protection Act of 1880, while the eggs are not protected by the adoption of the Wild Birds' Protection Act of 1894 in every county in England and Ireland as well as in a few counties in Scotland. Thus the natural increase of peewits is largely interfered with, quite apart from those killed for food, and the multiplication of pests injurious to crops is the consequence.