[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Charadriidae | [latin] Vanellus gregarius | [UK] Sociable Lapwing | [FR] Vanneau sociable | [DE] Steppenkiebitz | [ES] Avefrķa Sociable | [IT] Pavoncella gregaria | [NL] Steppekievit

Steppekievit determination

copyright: J. Hupperetz

Large, strikingly patterned plover. Adult greyish with black and chestnut belly. White supercilium and black crown and eye-stripe. Winter adult brownish but retains supercilium and crown pattern. Juvenile brown, slightly scalloped above, and streaked black below with large white supercilium. Similar spp. White-tailed Lapwing V. leucurus lacks supercilium and crown patch, has longer legs and no black subterminal tail-band. Voice Harsh kretsch kretsch and a rapid chattering.

It has a sporadic and irruptive pattern of semi-colonial breeding, mainly in the transition zones between Stipa and Artemisia grassland steppes where bare saline areas occur near water-bodies. Exact breeding habitat requirements are poorly known. It has recently been postulated that it evolved to nest in the short swards left in the wake of enormous wintering herds of saiga Saiga tartarica (currently listed as threatened). The wintering grounds are dry plains, sandy wastes and short grass areas, often adjacent to water.

Vanellus gregarius breeds mainly in Kazakhstan, but its global breeding range just extends into Europe in southern Russia. Its European breeding population is extremely small (as few as 25 pairs), and underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Subsequently, the Russian population underwent an extremely large decline (>80%) during 1990-2000. As a consequence of this continuing decline and its extremely small population, this globally threatened species, which was previously assessed as Endangered in Europe, is now evaluated as Critically Endangered.
Vanellus gregarius breeds in Russia and Kazakhstan, dispersing through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey, to key wintering sites in Israel, Eritrea, Sudan and north-west India. Birds winter occasionally in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Oman. It has suffered a very rapid decline and range contraction. In northern Kazakhstan, a decline of 40% between 1930-1960, was followed by a further halving of numbers between 1960-1987. These declines have continued, or even accelerated, to the point that the current population is estimated to be only 600-1,800 individuals.

Insects, such as grasshoppers, beetles, crickets and moth larvae, spiders frequently small amounts of plant material. Usually some small stones in stomach, occasionally remains of vertebrate bones and mollusc shells. Diet varies through breeding season, in winter, apparently chiefly grasshoppers and other insects. Diurnal

This species is listed as Critically Endangered because its very small population has undergone an very rapid reduction for poorly understood reasons, and this decline is projected to continue and increase in the future. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Monogamous. Before start of breeding season, parties of 6-10 birds land on open field for display fights of males in front of females. There is a sporadic and irruptive pattern of semi-colonial breeding with neighbouring parties 25-50 m apart, each consisting of 5 up to 20 pairs, each pair is territorial. Eggs and nesting habits closely resemble those of Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. The breeding season falls between the end of March and early July, most eggs being laid between mid-April and mid-June. The earliest clutch recorded was on 26 March, and a few pairs may lay late or second clutches up until late July. The nest is situated in open country and is usually a simple scrape in the earth, often unlined except for a small amount of accumulated rubbish or leaves, grass, moss etc. When the substrate is damp and boggy, such as the shores of lakes and rivers, birds may construct a nest of grass and weeds. As with most plovers, the full clutch usually contains four eggs. Incubation is about 25 days and done by the female. The young fledge 35_40 days later.

Large, strikingly patterned plover. Adult greyish with black and chestnut belly. White supercilium and black crown and eye-stripe. Winter adult brownish but retains supercilium and crown pattern. Juvenile brown, slightly scalloped above, and streaked black below with large white supercilium. Similar spp. White-tailed Lapwing V. leucurus lacks supercilium and crown patch, has longer legs and no black subterminal tail-band. Voice Harsh kretsch kretsch and a rapid chattering.
The species migrated in very large flocks, although this is evidently no longer the case. Spring migration through the Gilgit region occurred in March and April with a return passage in autumn, although birds do not remain off-passage for long: flocks paused by the Kurram river for only a day or two. Nearby in Kohat they passed through in small flocks from the end of February until the end of March, 1904-1907. The precise routes taken by birds appear to vary considerably from year to year, since large numbers passed through Kohat in 1905, but few in 1906.
While the bulk of the Indian wintering population is centred on Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, birds have been recorded as far south as Kerala, possibly owing to drought, related to failure of the monsoon. Post-breeding flocks were formerly sometimes of several hundred or even up to 1,000 and even in recent years in Kazakhstan July-August flocks of 70-108 birds have been recorded in Kustanai Oblast, although birds on spring migration in south-eastern Kazakhstan are mostly alone or in very small flocks.
Despite dwindling numbers the species remains prone to vagrancy, regularly occurring in the western Palearctic as far west as Britain, while in Asia the records from China, the Maldives and Sri Lanka represent similar deviations from normal migration patterns.
European birds winter mainly in south-west Asia and north-east Africa. Departures from steppe breeding grounds begin early August, but movements slow and protracted. Leaves wintering areas March and early April, reaching southern breeding grounds about mid-April, but northern steppes not until mid-May.