Sociable Lapwing in Qatar

The Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarious is a globally threatened wader which breeds in Central Asia and is found in the Middle East on migration and during the winter. The first few records of the species in Qatar were in the early 1980’s but it wasn’t seen again here until 2009. It now occurs in small numbers most years, with peak months October to March.  Thus, there were five sightings of up to three birds between mid October 2020 and early March 2021 and up to four between during the winter of 2021-2022. Maximum count of the species was eight birds in 2009.

Sociable Lapwing © Simon Tull

A recent study of the migration and habitat preferences of breeding and wintering Sociable Lapwing highlights that fact that passage and wintering birds in the Middle East are reliant on farms and other irrigated land (Appleton, 2021; Donald et al 2021). It also appears that over the years they have learned to take more direct migratory pathways to reach these areas; Birds seen in Qatar are assumed to follow a “central” migration route directly southwards from their breeding areas in Kazakhstan rather than a much longer western route through Turkey and Syria, or an eastern route that takes them into India and Pakistan.  The wintering site preference for Sociable Lapwing points to two issues (1) The importance of the growth in the number of farms in Qatar, and the generally low intensity way that they are managed and (2) The vulnerability of waste-water lagoons, another habitat used by the species in Qatar – these are affected by widely varying water levels and are often affected by human disturbance.