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Floof alert: First-ever spur-winged lapwing chicks hatch at Woodland Park Zoo

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

A spur-winged lapwing chick stands next to one of its parents. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Say hello to the newest members of our zoo family. These young birds that look like cotton balls on stilts are spur-winged lapwing chicks. The name is quite a big mouthful for such little cuties … and their hatching is a first for this species here at Woodland Park Zoo. Their sexes haven’t been determined yet.

Spur-winged lapwings are all legs—as seen here on this chick. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Spur-winged lapwings are wading birds that can be found on the shores of a variety of habitats including marshes, mudflats and lakes. In nature, this species is native to the sub-Saharan belt across central Africa but are also found in some Middle Eastern and east Mediterranean countries, including Turkey. While not endangered, this species does face threats from loss of their wetland habitats related to human development and climate change.

Spur-winged lapwing eggs and hatched chicks both have the kind of cryptic coloration that allows them to blend in with the habitat and avoid detection of predators. Photo: Eron Sullivan/Woodland Park Zoo

Our four new chicks, which hatched the last week of June, are only inches tall—with legs that make up half that height—but their parents stand about one foot tall. While adults have distinct brown, black and white blocks of color, the chicks have a more mottled feather pattern that allows them to camouflage into their surroundings to avoid predators.

Here you can see the spurs on the leading edge of each wing where the brown and white feathers end and the black feathers begin. Photo: Charles J Sharp, sharpphotography,

The “spur-winged” part of their name is quite literal as there is a small claw or spur hidden on the front-facing “elbow” of each of its wings. They are known to occasionally use these spurs to defend against predators or other intruders that get too close to their offspring.

One bird with three pairs of legs? The dark-colored legs belong to the adult spur-winged lapwing. The two grey sets of legs belong to the chicks, hiding beneath and behind one of their parents. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

While our dedicated animal keepers have given the new family plenty of space to bond, they say these parents are doing a great job of protecting their chicks—offering plenty of loud, harsh vocalizations and displays as warnings for everyone to keep their distance.

Adult spur-winged lapwings have very distinct black, white and brown coloration. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

In the wild, spur-winged lapwings feed on insects, larvae, and other invertebrates that they find in dirt, mud, and shallow water. They may also eat small lizards, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans and fish—and they are well-equipped to ambush their prey with great eyesight and those long legs that allow them to run on land or easily wade through shallow waters. Here at the zoo, our birds dine on a nutritious mix of soaked dog chow, mice, chopped fish and insects. Yum!

Spur-winged lapwing chicks have more mottled coloration. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

This young family lives in the African Savanna Aviary on the east side of Woodland Park Zoo. For your health and safety this is one of the areas that is currently closed to the public because it is an enclosed space where social distancing would be difficult. Just as well since these parents have made it clear they want some extra space while their little ones are so young! So for now, we hope you enjoy seeing these pictures until the time comes when you can see them in person.

A spur-winged lapwing chick and parent. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo has reopened—visit now! Go to to purchase timed-entry admission tickets and to learn about changes that help keep you, our animals and our staff healthy. We hope to see you soon and appreciate your support!