Senior Land Use Policy Officer, Jim Densham, is asking everyone to imagine being a lapwing.

A guide to being a lapwing

Photo by Steve Round (

Imagine you are a lapwing. What do you enjoy as a lapwing? What do you eat, where do you nest, how do you find your food? Here’s the simple guide to being a lapwing. Each spring you look for an open field and you make a nest on the ground, no more than a scrape in the earth. You lay a few eggs and when the chicks hatch they follow you to wet areas to feed on insects. You like grass which is not too long (a few cm high) and of course you really fear a tractor with a mower attachment.  In the late summer or autumn when your chicks have fledged, you flock with other lapwings.

Like many farmland birds, lapwings aren’t very adaptable. You can’t plonk them in a small enclosed silage field and expect them to nest in a hedge. They have evolved to specific conditions which are best for them to thrive and raise the next generation. The trouble is that humans have massively changed the farmed landscape in the past 50 years and more, and there aren’t that many undisturbed fields to nest in or wet fields in which to find insect food. It is now up to us all to make sure lapwings can find the habitats and the conditions they prefer. If we don’t, this charismatic bird, known by many as the peewit, could disappear from our countryside altogether.

Photo by Andy Hay (

Thankfully, the Agri-Environment-Climate (AEC) scheme of the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) is one way that we can help the lapwing. The AEC scheme aims to help Scotland’s wildlife and has the potential to pay a farmer or crofter to manage their land in just the way that lapwings like it. Over recent decades RSPB researchers have observed the particular needs of the lapwing and identified farming methods that are more lapwing friendly. This knowledge has been used to develop Options in previous SRDP schemes which farmers and crofters could choose to adopt on their land – such as the Open Grazed or Wet Grassland for Wildlife option. We now need these options to continue into the next scheme.

Like options to benefit the lapwing, there are many other options that we have helped to develop which benefit a variety of species and habitats in our countryside as well as options designed to support other objectives, such as improving water quality or business competition. RSPB Scotland is now working to ensure that quality wildlife focussed options remain central in the scheme and don’t get watered down or swamped by less effective ones.

The limited SRDP budget must continue to pay for what has been tried and tested, and must be used to deliver real results for birds like the lapwing. The knowledge we’ve built up must be carried forward and limited funds must be spent on things that work.

You can go back to being a human now.