Lapwing

    In Switzerland, the lapwing originally inhabited marshlands and reed meadows. After the conversion of many of these habitats into farmland, lapwing populations plummeted. The species somehow succeeded to colonize acres and meadows, which resulted in a population increase: more than 1000 breeding pairs were estimated to occur in 1975. However, the mechanization and the accompanying intensification of agricultural land use again led to dramatic declines in Switzerland. Today, only 100–200 breeding pairs are left and consequently, the lapwing is listed as Critically Endangered (CR) in the red list of 2010.

    Aims

    Lapwing populations are declining throughout Europe. This is primarily attributed to the impact of intensive agriculture. In today’s modern farmlands, hatching success and chick survival in lapwings and other ground-nesting species are well below the productivity needed to balance adult mortality.

    With tailored conservation measures, we aim at doubling the breeding success of the lapwing from less than 0.4 fledglings per pair and year to 0.8 fledglings per pair as required for population stability.

    The lapwing is one of 50 priority species of the “Swiss species recovery programme for birds”, which is being conducted in close collaboration between the Swiss Ornithological Institute, the Swiss Association for the Protection of Birds SVS/BirdLife Switzerland and the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN. Within this programme, causes of the decline are examined and appropriate measures are tested to promote the lapwing.

    Approach

    Conservation measures are being worked out and implemented with farmers and agencies. High priority is given to the protection of nests and fledglings from agricultural machines and predators. In addition, measures for improving habitat conditions primarily of offspring are being examined.

    To assess the efficiency of conservation measures, the Swiss Ornithological Institute has been scientifically examining the lapwing colony in the plain of Wauwil, canton Lucerne since 2005.

    In cooperation with local farmers, we protect nests from destruction by plough and mowing machines. To minimise predation, fields with lapwing nests and, since 2008, with foraging lapwing families are enclosed by electro-fences. To improve the feeding conditions of lapwing chicks and their survival in farmland, we focus on habitat management to create a mosaic of damp plots with short vegetation and bare ground within the home range of the broods.

    To evaluate the measures applied, we monitor the local population, its breeding success and offspring survival up to independence and try to assess causes of mortality.

    Significance

    The study in intensively cultivated Swiss farmland provides insights into the potential of the recovery programme in favour of the lapwing, a typical but endangered ground-nesting species. The experience gained in the lapwing project at Wauwil should help to implement adequate measures in other lapwing colonies as well.

    Results

    At the start of the project, the lapwing colony in the Wauwilermoos consisted of 15–25 breeding pairs. Thanks to a cooperative partnership with the local farmers since 2005, the loss of clutches due to agriculture could be minimised and electro-fences successfully excluded ground predators, especially those active at night: merely 5 % of the fenced lapwing clutches were predated as opposed to 68 % of the unprotected nests. Thus, fencing is a successful measure to protect nests.

    Shortly after hatching, the lapwing chicks leave the nest for good. They are cared for by their parents, but forage for themselves. Since 2008, we protected not only all nests, but also the fields used for foraging by the lapwing families. In addition, measures were implemented within the framework of a habitat connectivity programme (designed to enhance region-wide habitat connectivity) to make sure that farmers cultivate fields only after lapwing clutches have hatched, i.e. earliest at the end of May. Meanwhile, the effects of fields not cultivated until the end of June on nests was tested – such fields are used by lapwing families during foraging after the young have left the nest and also serve as safe breeding grounds for other ground-nesting species (skylark, yellow wagtail). Since foraging areas are being fenced, on average one juvenile per breeding pair reached independence. Thus, the target of 0.8 juveniles per breeding pair has been surpassed. By now, population size of the lapwing in the plain of Wauwil has more than doubled.

    Project management

    Petra Horch, Reto Spaar

    Partners

    Federal Office for the Environment FOEN
    Swiss Association for the Protection of Birds SVS/BirdLife Switzerland
    Farmers in the plain of Wauwil, canton Lucerne
    Kanton Luzern, Dienststelle für Landwirtschaft und Wald LAWA, Abteilungen Landwirtschaft und Natur, Jagd und Fischerei
    Local ornithologists

    Financial support

    Raymund und Esther Breu-Stiftung
    Stiftung Dreiklang
    Ernst Göhner Stiftung
    Steffen Gysel-Stiftung
    Marion Jean Hofer-Woodhead-Stiftung
    Stiftung Yvonne Jacob
    Natur- und Vogelschutzverein Reigoldswil
    Dr. Bertold Suhner-Stiftung
    Schiller Stiftung, Lachen
    Stiftung für Suchende
    Vontobel-Stiftung
    Zigerli-Hegi Stiftung
    private Donatoren

    Publications

    Horch, P., S. Hohl, N. Graf, F. Mondini, J. Besimo & R. Spaar (2019):
    Artenförderung Kiebitz in der Wauwiler Ebene, Kanton Luzern: Jahresbericht 2019.
    Horch, P., S. Hohl, M. Kipfer, T. Koch, E. Ritschard & R. Spaar (2018):
    Artenförderung Kiebitz in der Wauwiler Ebene, Kanton Luzern. Jahresbericht 2018.
    Horch, P., C. Gygax, S. Fischer, A. Egli, P. Bünter & R. Spaar (2017):
    Artenförderung Kiebitz in der Wauwiler Ebene, Kanton Luzern. Jahresbericht 2017.
    Horch, P., D. Ramseier & R. Spaar (2012):
    Artenförderung Kiebitz im Wauwilermoos LU. Jahresbericht 2012.