Tuesday 15 March 2011


Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius), winter plumage (source: IBC-Lynx).

On 13 March 2011, Rodney Smith reported a Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius) sighting on the reservoir birds website. The bird was seen in Castuera (La Serena, Badajoz) alongside the BA-35 road between km 20 and 21.

The Sociable Lapwing is a rare vagrant in Spain. Not only that but it is also classed as "Critically Threatened" (CR) due to plummeting numbers recently, a category including the 190 species with the most critical conservation status worldwide. This makes it an even juicier tidbit for twitchers. It is estimated that only 11,000 adult birds remain in the whole world, breeding on the central Asian steppes and wintering from Sudan to India. To get a better idea of the problem besetting the bird, BirdLife is now conducting a conservation programme including satellite tracking of several individuals.

This rare plover seems to winter regularly on the Iberian Peninsula. There are sightings ranging in time from 21 September to 18 April. Up to 2008 41 records had been accepted from Spain and 8 in Portugal. They are always one-offs, normally a fellow traveller in flocks of the abundant Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus). The last rarities report (2008) mentioned four birds in Spain. In the winter 2008-2009 there were at least four sightings. In winter 2009-2010 five more turned up. These sightings are widely scattered (Gerona, Le¾n, Valladolid, Soria, Zaragoza, Toledo, Ciudad Real, Badajoz and Seville in 2008-2010), the birds sometimes staying for a long time, up to four months, in the same spot. Curiously enough, this Badajoz sighting seems to be the only one in winter 2010-2011. According to the study of De Juana (2006), in France it turns up above all on spring and autumn passage, in northwest Iberia in both winter and on passage and in southwest Iberia mainly in winter. It therefore seems to be a true winter visitor in Spain, turning up after its arduous journey in very small numbers due to its low population worldwide.

This is the third sighting for Extremadura. The first was a bird seen from 19/02/04 to 4/03/04 in Mirandilla (Badajoz), initially in winter plumage and then moulting into its spring plumage during its stay (F. Prieto, J. Ledo and J. M. Benítez; accepted record). The second was a bird present on 03/11/09 in Los Canchales reservoir (Badajoz, J. M. Salazar); pending acceptance by the rarities committee (if a description was even sent in).

- De Juana, E. 2006. Aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona.

- Catry, P., Costa, H., Elias, G. and Matias, R. 2010. Aves de Portugal. Ornitologia do territorio continental. Assirio & Alvim. Lisbon.
- CR-SEO (Rarities Committee of the SEO). 2010. Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2008. Ardeola 57(2).