Northern lapwing

   ›      ›   Northern lapwing - Vanellus vanellus

The northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) belongs to the family of lapwings, Charadriidae.

The northern lapwing species are distributed in India, Pakistan, central and eastern Asia, Middle East, Europe, Mediterranean region and northwest Africa. These lapwing species have a characteristic crest. These lapwings are monotypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Northern Lapwing Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Northern lapwing - Overview

  • Scientific name: Vanellus vanellus
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Tringa Vanellus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Family: Charadriidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Northern lapwing, Chinese: 凤头麦鸡, French: Vanneau huppé, German: Kiebitz, Spanish: Avefría europea, Russian: Чибис, Japanese: タゲリ, Arabic: الزقزاق الشامي رهيز
  • Other names: Eurasian Lapwing, Green Lapwing, Green Plover, Peewit
  • Distribution: India, Pakistan, central and eastern Asia, Middle East, Europe, Mediterranean region, northwest Africa
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, worms, larvae
  • IUCN status listing: Near Threatened (NT)

Appearance, physical description and identification

The northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) is a distinctive stocky built, medium-sized plover, measuring 27 to 32 cm in length and weighing 130 to 330 grams. The wingspan is 80 to 90 cm.

The northern lapwing species have overall black and white plumage. The males have a wispy, long black crest and the females have shorter crest. The breeding male has greenish-black upperparts with purple iridescence. The underparts are white, except for broad black breastband and orange undertail coverts.

In northern lapwing the broad wings are rounded. In flight, black upperparts with white tips to some primaries and a white tail with a broad black terminal band are seen. The underwing is white, except for the black on the primaries and secondaries.

The breeding northern lapwing male has a black face, white cheeks and a pale gray nape. There is a black line across the cheeks, just blow the eyes. The crown is black. The female has black areas on the white face and black breastband with white speckles.

In winter plumage the male northern lapwing has white chin and throat, with pale sandy nape and face. The breastband has white speckles. The juveniles have very short crest and buff face.

The legs are pinkish in breeding males and grayish in juveniles and wintering birds. The bill is black. The irises are blackish brown. The northern lapwing call is a high-pitched, plaintive "pee-wip" sound.
Indian birds - Picture ofNorthern lapwing - Vanellus vanellus
1.Birds of India - Image of Northern lapwing - Vanellus vanellus by Alpsdake

Birds of India - Photo of Northern lapwing - Vanellus vanellus
2.Indian birds - Picture of Northern lapwing - Vanellus vanellus by Alpsdake

Indian birds - Image of Northern lapwing - Vanellus vanellus
3.Birds of India - Northern lapwing - Photo of Vanellus vanellus by Andreas Trepte,

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The northern lapwing species are distributed in the Indian subcontinent, Asia, Africa and Europe. The breeding populations are distributed in parts of Europe, central Asia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, southern Russia and China.

The wintering northern lapwing populations are distributed in western Europe, east Atlantic islands, northern Africa, Mediterranean region, Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, Myanmar, Thailand, south-east China, South Korea and southern Japan.

In India, these lapwing species are distributed in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of the northern lapwing species in China are Ulungur Hu and Jili Hu, Barkol Lake and grassland, Desert and wetland from Northern Urumqi to Dabancheng, Mosuowan, Tarim River, Ebi Nur and Kuytun River.

Some of the IBA of the northern lapwing in Iran are Shur Gol, Yadegarlu, Dorgeh Sangi lake, Seyed Mohalli, Zarin Kola, Larim Sara, Miankaleh Peninsula, Gorgan Bay, Lake Uromiyeh, Lake Bibishervan, Lake Eymar, Izeh and Sheikho lakes, Gomishan marshes, Turkoman steppes and Anzali Mordab complex.

Some of the IBA of the northern lapwing species in Mongolia are Airag Lake, Airkhan Lake, Buir Lake, Dashinchilen Bayan Lake, Uvsiin Khar Lake, Ulziitiin Sangiin Dalai Lake, Tolbo Lake, Khoton-Khorgon Lakes, Teshigiin Olon Lakes, Mongol Daguur and Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake.

The IBA of the northern lapwing species in Israel are Zevulun valley, Western Negev, Judean foothills and Jezre'el, Harod and Bet She'an valleys. The IBA of lapwing in Russia are Balaganskaya steppe, Khadyn lake and Lower Tumen river.

Ecosystem and habitat

These northern lapwing species do not normally occur in forests. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 100 meters.

The artificial ecosystems of these northern lapwing species include agricultural lands, pasture lands, irrigated lands, drains, ditches, ploughed fields and fallow lands.

The natural ecosystems of these northern lapwing species include temperate grasslands, temperate shrublands, intertidal mudflats, salt flats, estuaries, marshes, river banks and lake shores.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of the northern lapwings is mostly small invertebrates. Earthworms, moths, beetles, ants, flies, crickets, grasshoppers, dragonflies, cicadas, spiders, snails, frogs, small fish, seeds and other plant material are their primary food.

These northern lapwing species forage on ploughed fields, damp grassland, irrigated land, drains, ditches, canals, marshes, estuaries, mudflats, river banks and shore of lakes, preferably in the evening or night.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these northern lapwing species in most of its range is from April to July. These birds are mostly seasonally monogamous and breed as solitary pairs.

The northern lapwing species breed in a variety of wide open habitats with short vegetation like natural grasslands with short well-grazed vegetation, damp areas with shallow pools, hay meadows with expanse of short grass, patches of bare soil, swamps and agricultural fields.

The northern lapwing nest is a shallow ground scrape. The typical clutch contains 3-4 buff-colored, heavily mottled eggs. The lapwings defend their nest noisily and aggressively against all intruders, including cattle. The chicks are regularly moved to better sources of invertebrate food.

The northern lapwing chicks can walk around soon after they are dry and they have been observed to swim within 24 hours after hatching. The hatchlings can feed themselves and the parents role is only in leading them to good foraging areas.

The northern lapwing chicks are brooded in the night, at least for two weeks. The female has greater role in brooding and tending chicks, while the male takes up the guarding duty.

Migration and movement patterns

The northern lapwing species are partially migrant birds.

The northern breeding populations of the lapwing in Europe and central and eastern Asia are migratory. They migrate to their wintering grounds in western Europe, through Mediterranean to northern India, south-east China, South Korea and southern Japan between August and October.

The lapwings return to their breeding grounds from March to May. Some of the lapwing populations in north Mediterranean region and southwest Europe are sedentary and resident. They breed within the range, dispersing only locally.

Post breeding, the juvenile lapwings may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) is estimated to number 5,600,000 to 10,500,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these lapwing species is reported to be decreasing.

Throughout its range the lapwing species is reported to be locally common. The generation length is 9 years. Its distribution size is about 31,900,000

Sport-hunting, hunting for food, wetland drainage, egg collection, pollution of wetlands with harmful chemicals, petroleum pollution, predation and susceptibility to avian botulism are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these lapwing species.

IUCN and CITES status

The northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) is approaching the thresholds for being Vulnerable, under the range size criterion, under the population trend criterion and under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the lapwing species and has listed it as "Near Threatened". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Vanellus vanellus
Species:V. vanellus
Binomial name:Vanellus vanellus
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened
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1.Northern lapwing image source: (cropped)
Image author: Alpsdake | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
2.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Alpsdake | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
3.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Andreas Trepte, | License: CC BY-SA 2.5
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