As I mentioned in this week's sightings blog, there are impressive numbers of lapwings on the Levels at the moment. My estimate on Monday was 1000 birds, but other people have estimated at double that number. Either way, it's quite a sight when they are disturbed by a peregrine or marsh harrier.

Of course, this got me thinking about what the collective noun for a flock of lapwings is. Surprisingly for a bird that would have been a familiar sight for farmers throughout the country until recently, there only appear to be two alternative collective nouns. What's more, both relate to the behaviour of lapwings when they are nesting, rather than in these huge winter flocks.

For those who are not familiar with lapwing behaviour, both collective nouns may appear a bit unusual, but once you know that lapwings will feign a broken wing and walk away from their nest to try to deter a predator, then you'll understand the terms a deceipt or lapwings and a desert of lapwings. 

Lapwings are also known as peewits, after their courtship call, or green plovers, so it could be argued that another applicable collective noun is a wing of lapwings, although this term is more usually associated with plovers.

Lapwing, or green plover. Photo by Steve Everett

These terms are very applicable during the breeding season, but I'd like to propose an alternative term to describe these impressive winter flocks: a flicker of lapwings. This perfectly describes the way both the flocks and the individual birds appear to flicker from black to white in the sunshine as they twist and turn through the sky.

Do you have any other suggestions?