Vanellus is the genus of waders which provisionally contains all lapwings except red-kneed dotterel, Erythrogonys cinctus. The name "vanellus" is Latin for "little fan", vanellus being the diminutive of vannus ("winnowing fan"). The name is in reference to the sound lapwings' wings make in flight.[1][2]

Vanellus miles novaehollandiae
Vanellus miles novaehollandiae
Keichwa 01
Vanellus vanellus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Charadriidae
Genus: Vanellus
Brisson, 1760

24, see text


Afribyx Mathews, 1913
Anomalophrys Sharpe, 1896
Anitibyx Wolters, 1974
Belonopterus Reichenbach, [1852]
Chaetusia Agassiz, 1846 (unjustified emendation)
Cheltusia Verreaux, 1855 (unjustified emendation)
Chettusia Bonaparte, 1838
Chetusia Gray, 1841 (unjustified emendation)
Choetusia Blyth, 1854 (unjustified emendation)
Dorypaltus Brodkorb, 1959
Hemiparra Salvadori, 1865
Hoplopterus Bonaparte, 1831
Hoploxypterus Bonaparte, 1856
Lobibyx Heine [1890]
Lobipluria Bonaparte, 1856 (lapsus)
Lobipluvia Bonaparte, 1856
Lobivanellus Strickland 1841
Microsarcops Sharpe 1896
Ptiloscelys Bonaparte, 1856
Sarciophorus Strickland 1841
Stephanibyx Reichenbach, [1852]
Rogibyx Mathews 1913
Tylibyx Reichenbach, [1852]
Vanellochettusia Brandt 1852
Xiphidiopterus Reichenbach, [1852]
and see text


These long-legged waders mostly have strongly patterned plumage. Although the most familiar Eurasian lapwing, Vanellus vanellus (northern lapwing), has a wispy crest, only two other species do so. Red or yellow facial wattles are a more typical decoration.

Only northern, sociable, white-tailed, grey-headed and brown-chested lapwings are truly migratory species. The Andean lapwing moves downhill in winter.

Spur-winged, blacksmith, river, southern, Andean and pied lapwings are boldly patterned, red-eyed species with a spurred carpal (wrist) joint.

Many species have wattles which can be small (black-headed, spot-breasted, red-wattled and banded lapwings) or large (white-crowned, African wattled, yellow-wattled, Javan, and masked lapwings). The latter species are the largest of the plover family, since several exceed 30 cm (12 in).


The genus Vanellus was erected by the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760.[3][4] The name was derived by tautonymy from the original binomial name of the northern lapwing Tringa vanellus introduced by Linnaeus in 1758.[4][5] Vanellus is the Medieval Latin for a "lapwing". It is a diminutive of the Latin vanus meaning "winnowing" or "fan".[6]

The systematics of Vanellus have hitherto resisted clear resolution. Essentially, no major revision can be brought to agree with another, and up to 19 genera were at one time recognized for the 24 lapwing species. While it might be desirable to split up this large and diverse genus a bit, the morphological characters are a confusing mix of apomorphic and plesiomorphic traits in any one species, with few relationships readily apparent. Molecular data has been found to provide even less sufficient resolution, though the lapwings have not yet been as thoroughly studied under this aspect as other Charadriiformes.[7]

The only thing that can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that according to the DNA sequence data one group of 5 species seems to stand out. These are wattle-less lapwings which were separated as Anitibyx, Belonopterus, Hoplopterus (in the narrow sense) and Ptiloscelys. They are visually very dissimilar, but it is notable that their distribution forms a clean band through the tropical regions of the world except Australia; they might conceivably form a clade. The only species among them that is migratory is the Andean lapwing (V. resplendens), which as noted above cannot be allied with the truly migratory lapwings on these grounds. However, if these were to be split off, for one thing it is almost certain that other lineages would also require separation; the new genus' name would probably be Hoplopterus, which is the longest- and most widely used alternative lapwing genus.[7]

List of species in taxonomic order

Alternatively placed in Hemiparra:

Alternatively placed in Anitibyx:

Alternatively placed in Hoplopterus:

Alternatively placed in Sarciophorus, Lobivanellus or Hoplopterus:

Alternatively placed in Lobipluvia or Hoplopterus:

Alternatively placed in Xiphidiopterus or Hoplopterus:

  • White-crowned lapwing, white-headed lapwing, white-crowned plover or white-headed plover, Vanellus albiceps

Alternatively placed in Stephanibyx or Hoplopterus:

Crowned Lapwing (Vanellus coronatus) Mikumi shadow lift
Crowned lapwing in Tanzania

Alternatively placed in Afribyx:

Alternatively placed in Tylibyx, Lobivanellus or Hoplopterus:

Alternatively placed in Anomalophrys:

Alternatively placed in Microsarcops or Hoplopterus:

Alternatively placed in Lobivanellus or Hoplopterus:

Alternatively placed in Rogibyx:

  • Javan lapwing, Javanese lapwing, or Javanese wattled lapwing, Vanellus macropterus

Alternatively placed in Zonifer, Lobivanellus or Hoplopterus:

Alternatively placed in Lobibyx, Lobivanellus or Hoplopterus:

Alternatively placed in Chettusia:

Alternatively placed in Vanellochettusia or Chettusia:

Alternatively placed in Hoploxypterus:

Alternatively placed in Belonopterus:

Alternatively placed in Ptiloscelys or Belonopterus:

Prehistoric species

Species known only from fossil or subfossil remains include:

  • Vanellus madagascariensis (14th century Madagascar)[8]
  • Vanellus lilloi (Middle/Late Pleistocene of Centinela del Mar, Argentina)
  • Vanellus downsi (Late Pleistocene of Rancho La Brea, USA)
  • Vanellus edmundi (Late Pleistocene of Talalra, Peru)

The last three of these seem to be very closely related to the southern lapwing and all were placed in Belonopterus by the describing authors. If Viator picis, also from the Late Pleistocene of Talara, does not belong to an entirely extinct lineage, it might belong to that group too; it seems too large to be closely related to the smallish pied lapwing.[9]

Neither the Early Oligocene Dolicopterus[10] from Ronzon, France nor the supposed mid-Oligocene lapwing "Vanellus" selysii of Rupelmonde (Belgium) unquestionably belong here. While their age suggests that they may indeed represent some ancient lapwings, the fossil remains have not been studied for many decades and a review is seriously overdue.[11]


  1. ^ Terres & NAS (1980): p.741
  2. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 397. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  3. ^ Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode Contenant la Division des Oiseaux en Ordres, Sections, Genres, Especes & leurs Variétés (in French and Latin). Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. Vol. 1, p. 48, Vol. 5, p. 94.
  4. ^ a b Peters, James Lee, ed. (1934). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 2. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 235.
  5. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema Naturæ per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Volume 1 (in Latin) (10th ed.). Holmiae:Laurentii Salvii. p. 148.
  6. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 398. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  7. ^ a b Piersma & Wiersma (1996), Thomas et al. (2004)
  8. ^ Goodman, Steven M (1997). "Description of a new species of subfossil lapwing (Aves: Charadriiformes, Charadriidae, Vanellus) from Madagascar". Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. 18: 607–614.
  9. ^ Campbell (2002)
  10. ^ Not Dolichopterus, contra Mlíkovský (2002)
  11. ^ Mlíkovský (2002)


Further reading

  • Hayman, Peter; Marchant, John & Prater, Tony (1986): Shorebirds: an identification guide to the waders of the world. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. ISBN 0-395-60237-8
  • Terres, John K. & National Audubon Society (1980): The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. ISBN 0-394-46651-9

External links

African wattled lapwing

"Senegal wattled plover" redirects here. The Senegal lapwing is a different species, Vanellus lugubris.

The African wattled lapwing (Vanellus senegallus), also known as the Senegal wattled plover or simply wattled lapwing, is a large lapwing, a group of largish waders in the family Charadriidae. It is a resident breeder in most of sub-Saharan Africa outside the rainforests, although it has seasonal movements.

These are conspicuous and unmistakable birds. They are large brown waders with a black crown, white forehead and large yellow facial wattles. The tail is white, tipped black, and the long legs are yellow.

In flight, the upperwings have black flight feathers and brown coverts separated by a white bar. The underwings are white with black flight feathers. The African wattled lapwing has a loud peep-peep call.

This species is a common breeder in wet lowland habitats, especially damp grassland. It often feeds in drier habitats, such as golf courses, picking insects and other invertebrates from the ground. It lays three or four eggs on a ground scrape.

The African wattled lapwing is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Black-headed lapwing

The black-headed lapwing or black-headed plover (Vanellus tectus) is a large lapwing, a group of largish waders in the family Charadriidae. It is a resident breeder across sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia, although it has seasonal movements. It lays two or three eggs on a ground scrape.

These are conspicuous and unmistakable birds. They are medium-large waders with a black head other than a white forehead, lower face and bands across the rear head and nape. There is a wispy black crest like northern lapwing and the bill and legs are red. The tail is white, tipped black.

In flight, the black-headed lapwing's upperwings have black flight feathers and brown coverts separated by a white bar. The underwings are white with black flight feathers.

This species is a common breeder in wet lowland habitats close to water. It often feeds in drier habitats, such as golf courses and grassy scrub, picking insects and other invertebrates from the ground.

The black-headed lapwing has a metallic tink-tink call.

Blacksmith lapwing

The blacksmith lapwing or blacksmith plover (Vanellus armatus) occurs commonly from Kenya through central Tanzania to southern and southwestern Africa. The vernacular name derives from the repeated metallic 'tink, tink, tink' alarm call, which suggests a blacksmith's hammer striking an anvil.

Brown-chested lapwing

The brown-chested lapwing (Vanellus superciliosus) is a species of bird in the family Charadriidae.

It resides year-round in a narrow strip of land from southwestern Nigeria to northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo; its wintering range extends toward Lake Chad, Lake Victoria and northern Zambia.

It is a carnivorous bird feeding on insects, larvae, crickets, bugs, grasshoppers etc. Their preferred habitat is grassy lands, open savannas or grounds of Mopane forests.

Crowned lapwing

The crowned lapwing (Vanellus coronatus), or crowned plover, is a bird of the lapwing subfamily that occurs contiguously from the Red Sea coast of Somalia to southern and southwestern Africa. It is an adaptable and numerous species, with bold and noisy habits. It is related to the more localized black-winged and Senegal lapwings, with which it shares some plumage characteristics.

Grey-headed lapwing

The grey-headed lapwing (Vanellus cinereus) is a lapwing species which breeds in northeast China and Japan. The mainland population winters in northern Southeast Asia from northeastern India to Cambodia. The Japanese population winters, at least partially, in southern Honshū.

This species has occurred as a vagrant in Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia, New South Wales, Australia and Sri Lanka.


Vanellinae are any of various crested plovers, family Charadriidae, noted for its slow, irregular wingbeat in flight and a shrill, wailing cry. Its length is 10–16 inches. They are a subfamily of medium-sized wading birds which also includes the plovers and dotterels. The Vanellinae are collectively called lapwings but also contain the ancient red-kneed dotterel. A lapwing can be thought of as a larger plover.

The traditional terms "plover", "lapwing" and "dotterel" were coined long before modern understandings of the relationships between different groups of birds emerged: in consequence, several of the Vanellinae are still often called "plovers", and the reverse also applies, albeit more rarely, to some Charadriinae (the "true" plovers and dotterels).

In Europe's Anglophone countries, "lapwing" refers specifically to the northern lapwing, the only member of this group to occur in most of the continent and thus the first bird to go by the English name 'lapwing'.

Masked lapwing

The masked lapwing (Vanellus miles), also known as the masked plover and often called the spur-winged plover or just plover in its native range, is a large, common and conspicuous bird native to Australia, particularly the northern and eastern parts of the continent, New Zealand and New Guinea. It spends most of its time on the ground searching for food such as insects and worms and has several distinctive calls. There are two subspecies; the southern novaehollandiae has distinctive black markings on the shoulder and side of the chest, and is sometimes recognized as a separate species, the black-shouldered lapwing (Vanellus novaehollandiae). These brown-black, white and yellow plovers are common in Australian fields and open land.

Northern lapwing

The northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), also known as the peewit or pewit, tuit or tew-it, green plover, or (in Britain and Ireland) just lapwing, is a bird in the lapwing family. It is common through temperate Eurasia.

It is highly migratory over most of its extensive range, wintering further south as far as north Africa, northern India, Pakistan, and parts of China. It migrates mainly by day, often in large flocks. Lowland breeders in westernmost areas of Europe are resident. It occasionally is a vagrant to North America, especially after storms, as in the Canadian sightings after storms in December 1927 and in January 1966.It is a wader that breeds on cultivated land and other short vegetation habitats. 3–4 eggs are laid in a ground scrape. The nest and young are defended noisily and aggressively against all intruders, up to and including horses and cattle.

In winter, it forms huge flocks on open land, particularly arable land and mud-flats.

Red-wattled lapwing

The red-wattled lapwing (Vanellus indicus) is an Asian lapwing or large plover, a wader in the family Charadriidae. Like other lapwings they are ground birds that are incapable of perching. Their characteristic loud alarm calls are indicators of human or animal movements and the sounds have been variously rendered as did he do it or pity to do it leading to the colloquial name of did-he-do-it bird. Usually seen in pairs or small groups and usually not far from water they sometimes form large aggregations in the non-breeding season (winter). They nest in a ground scrape laying three to four camouflaged eggs. Adults near the nest fly around, diving at potential predators while calling noisily. The cryptically patterned chicks hatch and immediately follow their parents to feed, hiding by lying low on the ground or in the grass when threatened.

River lapwing

The river lapwing (Vanellus duvaucelii) is a lapwing species which breeds from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Southeast Asia. It range includes much of northern and northeastern India, and extends through Southeast Asia to Vietnam. It appears to be entirely sedentary. Formerly also called spur-winged lapwing, this name is better reserved for one of the "spur-winged plovers" of old, Vanellus spinosus of Africa, whose scientific name it literally translates. The masked lapwing of Australasia was at one time also called "spur-winged plover", completing the name confusion - particularly as none of these is a plover in the strict sense.

This species resembles the closely related spur-winged lapwing of Africa, and has sometimes been considered conspecific. The species name commemorates Alfred Duvaucel.

Senegal lapwing

The African wattled lapwing (Vanellus senegallus) is sometimes called Senegal wattled plover.

The Senegal lapwing or lesser black-winged lapwing (Vanellus lugubris) is a species of bird in the family Charadriidae.

It is found in Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Sociable lapwing

The sociable lapwing or sociable plover (Vanellus gregarius) is a critically endangered wader in the lapwing family of birds. The genus name is Medieval Latin for a lapwing and derives from vannus a winnowing fan. The specific gregarius is Latin for "sociable" from grex, gregis, "flock".

Southern lapwing

The southern lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) is a wader in the order Charadriiformes. It is a common and widespread resident throughout South America, except in densely forested regions (e.g. most of the Amazon), the higher parts of the Andes and the arid coast of a large part of western South America. This bird is particularly common in the basin of the Rio de la Plata. It has also been spreading through Central America in recent years. It reached Trinidad in 1961 and Tobago in 1974, and has rapidly increased on both islands, sporadically making its way North to Barbados where one pair mated, nested and produced chicks in 2007.

The southern lapwing is the national bird of Uruguay, and one of the symbols of the Brazilian state Rio Grande do Sul.

Spur-winged lapwing

The spur-winged lapwing or spur-winged plover (Vanellus spinosus) is a lapwing species, one of a group of largish waders in the family Charadriidae.

It is one of several species of wader supposed to be the "trochilus" bird said by Herodotus to have been involved in an unattested cleaning symbiosis with the Nile crocodile.

Vickers Viking

The Vickers Viking was a British single-engine amphibious aircraft designed for military use shortly after World War I. Later versions of the aircraft were known as the Vickers Vulture and Vickers Vanellus.

White-crowned lapwing

The white-crowned lapwing, white-headed lapwing, white-headed plover or white-crowned plover (Vanellus albiceps) is a medium-sized wader. It is resident throughout tropical Africa, usually near large rivers.

White-tailed lapwing

The white-tailed lapwing or white-tailed plover (Vanellus leucurus) is a wader in the lapwing genus. The genus name Vanellus is Medieval Latin for a lapwing and derives from vannus a winnowing fan. The specific leucurus is from Ancient Greek leukouros, "white-tailed".This medium-sized lapwing is long-legged and fairly long-billed. It is the only lapwing likely to be seen in other than very shallow water, where it picks insects and other small prey mainly from the surface.

Adults are slim erect birds with a brown back and foreneck, paler face and grey breast. Its long yellow legs, pure white tail and distinctive brown, white and black wings make this species unmistakable. Young birds have a scaly back, and may show some brown in the tail.

The breeding season call is a peewit, similar to northern lapwing.

It breeds semi-colonially on inland marshes in Iraq, Iran and southern Russia. Four eggs are laid in a ground nest. The Iraqi and Iranian breeders are mainly residents, but Russian birds migrate south in winter to the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East and north east Africa. It is a very rare vagrant in western Europe, the first example in Britain being found at Packington, Warwickshire on 12 July 1975.

In some parts of its distribution range the species faces threats related to habitat destruction and unintentional poaching.The white-tailed lapwing is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Yellow-wattled lapwing

The yellow-wattled lapwing (Vanellus malabaricus) is a lapwing that is endemic to the Indian Subcontinent. It is found mainly on the dry plains of peninsular India and has a sharp call and is capable of fast flight. Although they do not migrate, they are known to make seasonal movements in response to rains. They are dull grey brown with a black cap, yellow legs and a triangular wattle at the base of the beak. Like other lapwings and plovers, they are ground birds and their nest is a mere collection of tiny pebbles within which their well camouflaged eggs are laid. The chicks are nidifugous, leaving the nest shortly after hatching and following their parents to forage for food.

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