Birds of Egypt: “Abu Maghazil,” The Spur-Winged Lapwing

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In Egypt, the name of this beautiful bird is, “Abu Maghazil,” or “Father of Hooks.” His official name is “Spur-Winged Lapwing,” or “Vanellus spinosus,” in the family of “Charadriidae.” He is named for a sharp spur hiding in each wing, which he uses for defense.

Mohamed says the “maghzal” is the hook on the end of the stick traditionally used for spinning wool or cotton into thread. I immediately imagined an ancient Egyptian using Abu Maghazil’s hook-shaped spur for the earliest spinning of sheep’s wool into thread for the weaving looms, and I could be right, as you can see in this picture:

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“Abu Maghazil” may mean “Father of Hooks,” but another translation might be “Father of Alarm Clocks.” If you think the rooster already has this title, you haven’t heard anything yet! Lucky you! These guys stand guard anxiously awaiting the tiniest crack of dawn. That looks like pitch black to me, but not to them. It obviously looks like a glorious green light to them! Ranged on the roof of the 5-story chicken farm 50 meters from my window, they explode raucously, competing for the “Loudest, Most Obnoxious Bird On Earth Award.” And they don’t explode in unison, they sound like your worst nightmare of “whack-a-mole,” each one jumping up and screeching to fill the sky with “EEE-ee! EEE-ee!” and not one of them is keeping time with the other. It’s like a million screeching ping-pong balls falling out of the sky and landing on the ping-pong table beside your head. Landing and bouncing in perpetually staggered waves for maximum un-uniformity: “EEE-ee! EEE-ee!” “EEE-ee! EEE-ee!” “EEE-ee! EEE-ee!” “EEE-ee! EEE-ee!” “EEE-ee! EEE-ee!” These guys are so good at what they do, you soon lose your sleep, but you gain a real appreciation for bird hunting!

It’s not like anyone around here is in need of an alarm clock, either. My husband and I, like most Muslims, and farmers of any persuasion, usually awaken at dawn. The first call to prayer loudly broadcasts from the nearby mosques, coinciding in summertime with Abu Maghazil’s glee. But prior to the actual “adhan,” or call to prayer, the broadcast begins half an hour earlier, faintly audible, and gradually increasing in volume. The playlist is usually melodic Quran recitation and an Islamic genre my husband terms “Sufi Vocals.” It’s quite peaceful and inspirational, although I don’t understand any of it, and I greatly prefer it over “Abu Maghazil Vocals” anytime!

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Honestly, I like these beautiful birds, despite their dawn cacophony, and enjoy their arrival every year in spring. In the early evenings, they return to their guard posts on the edge of the chicken farm roof, spacing uniformly apart about a half meter between each other. Then, with the wind blowing in their faces, they jump off and hang suspended in the air with wings outstretched, exactly as if they are windsurfing! Sitting on our rooftop, it’s very enjoyable watching them windsurf against the backdrop of a gorgeous Egyptian sunset. I imagine they’re eating mosquitos as they surf, but I’m not sure. The arrival of mosquitoes directly after sunset always prompts my hasty departure. I’m such a wuss, I hate mosquitoes!

Click Here to learn more at Wikipedia


Click Here for the Previous Bird in the series, “Um Uway’e,” The Little Owl OR Click Here for the Next Bird in the series, “Abu Ghuttaas,” The Pied Kingfisher


33 thoughts on “Birds of Egypt: “Abu Maghazil,” The Spur-Winged Lapwing

  1. Abu Maghazil , I’ve never heard or seen them. In the picture they look nice.I guess if I heard their weee I woudn’t like them. Thank you for sharing the facts about the birds.


    • Thanks Marcy! That’s what I like, too – when something gets a name in Egypt it’s usually for a good reason, so I definitely think the relationship between the bird and the hook implement for spinning wool is historic (if not ancient!)


    • LOL I never picked up on that until my brother came to visit – we’re usually always awake that early so the ruckus is not so nightmarish as it is offensive, but my brother wasn’t used to getting up early and it definitely jolted him!! I think he got shell-shock, it was so funny hearing him complain about those birds!


  2. This reminds me of one of my favorite Larry David quotes: “You know…if I were deaf…and couldn’t hear the birds singing in the morning…it wouldn’t be so bad, actually.” 😉


  3. Oh, they sound terribly obnoxious. This post reminded me of an apartment I lived in where this damn woodpecker would peck on the rotting wood outside my window every morning, and I’d walk out, usually hung-over (because I was 22), in my pajamas and throw rocks at it and then go back to sleep. Damn birds.


  4. Aisha, it was fun to learn about the Abu Maghazil. I lived on a peacock farm for a couple of years, and those guys can probably give your “father of the alarm clocks” a run for his money – especially during mating season : )

    I really liked this line in your essay: “The first call to prayer loudly broadcasts from the nearby mosques, coinciding in summertime with Abu Maghazil’s glee.” Very descriptive and poetic.


    • Thanks Karen, you’re right, the peacocks are crazy loud too, especially in mating season! What a cool job, working on a peacock farm! Mohamed and I had a great little farm in SC and we raised some peacocks too, so I know exactly what you mean! Here’s a photo I dug out to show you our peacock barn:
      ;^) lol but abu maghazil beats the peacocks hands down, he’s monster obnoxious!! (Not as pretty tho, huh?!)


      • Thank you for sharing the photo : ) Peacocks are so beautiful. I have a couple of cool photos from our time on the farm (but I don’t know if I have enough tech savvy to attach them here). I think I can figure out how to tweet them to you though. I have a really neat one of a white peacock. We didn’t work there – we rented a giant apartment in a barn on the farm. Our landlord was kind of a bird hoarder, so there was always a gaggle of crazy feathered creatures storming around making a ruckus. There were also a lot of goats, which are pretty hilarious.


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