07 November 2022

Wing spurs

Image cropped for size from the IAF subreddit, where the bird is identified as an Australian masked lapwing.  New info for me, so I checked Wikipedia:
A spur is an outgrowth of bone covered in a sheath of horn found in various anatomical locations in some animals. Unlike claws or nails, which grow from the tip of the toes, spurs form from other parts of the foot, usually in connection with joints where the toes meet the foot or the foot meets the long bones. Spurs are most commonly found on the hindfeet, though some birds possess spurs at the leading edge of the wings...

Unlike claws, spurs are normally straight or only slightly curved, making them suited to striking or stabbing. In birds and mammals, their function appears to be for fighting, defense and territory marking, rather than for predation. In reptiles, spurs are usually only found in the males and are used as holdfasts or to stimulate the female during copulation...

The masked lapwing (also known as the spur-winged plover) has carpal spurs. Nesting pairs defend their territory against all intruders by calling loudly, spreading their wings, and then swooping fast and low, and where necessary, striking at interlopers with their feet and attacking animals on the ground with the conspicuous yellow spurs.
More info at the link re mammalian and reptilian spurs.


  1. Can confirm these are nasty! As a kid growing up in Geelong, Victoria, we used to train on an oval where a family of plovers used to nest in the grass. If a ball went anywhere near the nesting area, it was a two kid operation to fetch the ball - one to pick up the ball and other to swing a bat or two in the to try to protect against the swooping plovers.

  2. They don't help themselves by nesting on the ground. Although I suppose the problem really is that humans have taken up all the ground. Friends currently have a nesting pair with two eggs right beside their driveway. Getting in and out of their car is tricky!

    As for the info about wattles, above, that isn't the case with this species, as both males and females have wattles. The same applies for some other Australian birds, such as the red wattlebird, and the yellow wattlebird.


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