Yellow Wattled Lapwing

Yellow Wattled Lapwing - Picture by Saurabh Kapur

The Yellow Wattled Lapwing (Vanellus Malabaricus) is a fairly common non migratory resident bird found in the dry scrub and open grassland of the Indian subcontinent. Although the bird is non-migratory, it moves seasonally according to rain patterns.

You can distinguish it from other Lapwings quite easily thanks to the prominent yellow wattle on the beak of the bird. The Red wattled Lapwing which is a close cousin has red wattles where the beak meets the face of the bird.

The bird lays a clutch of about 4 Eggs which hatch around the same time, even though they may be laid at a gap of a few days. The nest is in the ground amidst small pebbles which help in camouflaging the eggs from predators. The eggs have a pattern similar to the pebbles which helps in protecting them. The chicks leave the nest very soon after they hatch and follow the parents to forage for food. The term used for such organisms is Nidifuguous – which means leaving the nest soon after hatching.

For more about the bird, do read the Wikipedia entry about the “Yellow Wattled Lapwing”

Legend and Myth – the lapwing makes a wail like sound. Legent and Myth goes that the Lapwing’s wail comes from the Mahabharatha times. In the battle ground, where the Kaurava and Pandava armies were facing each other, there was a little stony patch where the mother Lapwing had laid her eggs. On seeing the massive armies, ready for war, on either side of the nest the mother lapwing was sure that her eggs would be destroyed in the war. She begged Lord Krishna to save her babies. Lord Krishna assured her that her no harm would come to her eggs. To keep his word, he kept the bell that was used for declaring the start of the war on top of the nest. However, after the war finished, he forgot to remove the massive bell from above the nest. The mother Lapwing tried in vain to remove it, but she wasn’t strong enough. She started wailing for help, but there was no one left in the battle field. Legend goes that to this day the mother Lapwing wails to get her eggs out from under the bell.

The interesting story above was narrated to me by an old gentleman in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh. The story is an old village folklore and has no documented “proof”. The events of the late afternoon went something like this. I was driving across beautiful rural landscape when everything was glowing golden golden in late afternoon sunlight. In an open dry scrub land a by the road, I saw this lapwing in perfect summer light and I decided to take a break and click some pictures of the bird. The next half an hour was spent trying to make friends with the bird who decided to play hard to get and kept coming in and going out of my frame. I finally got this shot after I decided to lie down on the ground with my camera pointing towards the small stony patch where the bird was repeatedly going. Seeing my antics, the old gentleman, who by now was very amused, started a conversation about what I was up to. As it goes in pretty much all of India, any stranger will be invited over for a cup of tea and snacks by the villagers. Quite soon, I found myself sipping piping hot tea in company of the old gentleman, several village children, their teacher and a few other people. All in all, an afternoon well spent with lots of stories, a good picture and some new friends.