24/02/2017
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Internationally important numbers of Sociable Lapwings found in Pakistan

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Two satellite-tagged Sociable Lapwings have led researchers to discover potentially important wintering grounds for the Critically Endangered species.

The birds, named Tesfaye and Maysa, have both spent the winter in Pakistan after completing their migrations from Kazakhstani breeding grounds in October. Both were tagged in summer 2015.

The importance of Pakistan as a wintering area for the species was previously unclear but, spurred on by the GPS positions of the two lapwings, survey work along the Indus River valley in the Balochistan and Sindh provinces in December and January revealed an impressive flock of 200 birds in agricultural fields near the town of Dadu and a further flock nearby at Khairpur Nathan Shah, which later moved north-east to Jaffarabad.


Tesfaye was tagged in summer 2015 and has a unique combination of colour rings to allow researchers to recognise him (Photo: BirdLife International)

Video footage (below) shows the birds using winter wheat fields and they appear very tolerant of nearby agricultural labourers. This flock is the largest seen anywhere on wintering grounds. Although lapwings can gather in large groups on migration, such as in Turkey, Syria, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, they usually disperse in to smaller flocks when they reach the wintering areas.

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Surveys will be repeated in the coming weeks and the project team will initiate some awareness-raising activities with local communities to highlight Sociable Lapwing's plight, and how important it is to protect them.

The Sociable Lapwing Project is co-ordinated by BirdLife International and has been running since 2004, the year the species was uplisted to the Critically Endangered category on the basis of severe population declines, there reasons for which are unclear. Each year since then, researchers have collected data on numbers, habitat use, distribution and nesting success on the breeding grounds in Kazakhstan.

For more information, visit sociable-lapwing.birdlife.org