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605px-Vanelus gregarius

Encyclopedia Illustration - Courtesy of Wikipedia


The Sociable Plover (Vanellus gregarius) is a wader.

It breeds on open grassland in Russia and Kazakhstan. Three to five eggs are laid in a ground nest. These birds migrate south through most of the middle east and western Asia. This lapwing is a very rare vagrant in western and northern Europe such as the UK, where this gregarious bird is usually found with Lapwings. It feeds in a similar way, picking insects and other small prey mainly from grassland or arable.

This attractive medium-sized plover has longish black legs and a short black bill. Summer adults have grey backs and breast, dark belly and white undertail. The head has a striking pattern, with a black crown and eyestripe, the latter being bordered above and below with white. The upper neck is ochre. Its longish black legs, white tail with a black terminal band and distinctive brown, white and grey wings make it almost unmistakable in flight. The call is a harsh kereck.

Winter adults have a less distinct head pattern, slightly browner back and breast, and white belly. Young birds have a scaly back, and only vestiges of the head pattern.

In 2004 BirdLife International categorised this bird as critically endangered, due to a rapid population decline for poorly understood reasons. The main decline took place between 1960 and 1987, when the known population halved; it is presently some 20-25% of the 1930s population levels (BirdLife International 2006). The current population was estimated to be between 600 and 1,800 mature birds in 2006 (BirdLife International), but is currently being revised to the upward end of that scale, possibly more, following the discovery of the species' previously unknown main wintering grounds in Syria, where 1500 birds of all ages were encountered. Additionally, in October 2007, a superflock of approximately 3,200 Sociable Lapwing were discovered in Turkey, according to Guven Eken, director of the Turkish Nature Association.

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