Lapwing named Swiss Bird of the Year

The lapwing and its habitat are under threat. Keystone

The lapwing, which almost became extinct in Switzerland, has been voted Bird of the Year 2019 by nature conservation group BirdLife Switzerland.

This colourful bird was almost extinct some 15 years ago. From some 1,000 breeding pairs in the 1970s, that number had dropped to only 83 in the whole of Switzerland in 2005. However, conservation measures introduced at that time have pushed the number up to 206 breeding pairs in 2018, according to BirdLife Switzerland.

The lapwing once lived in wetlands, and then moved to farmland after the wetlands were drained in the mid-20th century. But intensive farming practices and spraying of pesticides became the new threat. The birds are also vulnerable because they lay their eggs on the ground.

About 15 years ago, BirdLife Switzerland and the Swiss Ornithological Institute launched various conservation projects together with farmers and volunteers. After nesting, the lapwings are protected from predators by electric fences. Nature conservationists work closely with farmers to ensure that neither eggs nor young birds are harmed.

This has turned things around, but BirdLife Switzerland says the population is still too small to survive without interventionist measures. “Cooperation between farmers and nature conservationists must be improved and intensified in some places,” it says.

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