Grey-headed lapwing

   ›      ›   Grey-headed lapwing - Vanellus cinereus

The grey-headed lapwing (Vanellus cinereus) belongs to the family of plovers, dotterels, and lapwings, Charadriidae.

The grey-headed lapwing species are distributed in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, southeast Asia, China, Japan, Hongkong, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and Taiwan. These lapwing species have strikingly contrasting black primary flight feathers and white secondary feathers. These lapwings are monotypic species.

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

Grey-headed lapwing - Overview

  • Scientific name: Vanellus cinereus
  • Species author: (Blyth, 1842)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Pluvianus cinereus Blyth, 1842, Hoplopterus cinereus (Blyth, 1842)
  • Family: Charadriidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Grey-headed lapwing, Chinese: 灰头麦鸡, French: Vanneau à tête grise, German: Graukopfkiebitz, Spanish: Avefría ceniza, Russian: Серый чибис, Japanese: ケリ, Indonesian: Burung Trulek Kelabu
  • Other names: Grey-headed Plover
  • Distribution: India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, southeast Asia, China, Japan, Hongkong, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Taiwan
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, worms, molluscs, small fish, shrimp
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Appearance, physical description and identification

The grey-headed lapwing (Vanellus cinereus) is a large lapwing, measuring 35 to 40 cm in length and weighing 240 to 300 grams. The wingspan is around 75 cm.

The adult grey-headed lapwing have bluish gray head, neck and upper breast. The upperparts are ashy brown and the underparts are white. There is a broad black breast band.

In flight, the striking contrast between the black primary feathers and white secondary feathers can be seen. The lower back and rump are white. The tail is white and has a broad black preterminal band.

The male and female grey-headed lapwing have similar plumage. But the male is slightly larger in size. The juveniles lack the black band on the breast and the are pale brown on the head and upperparts.

The grey-headed lapwing bill is yellow with black tip. The irises are reddish orange. The juveniles have reddish brown irises. There is yellow eye ring. There are small yellow mouth wattles. The feet are yellow.

The call of these grey-headed lapwing species is a loud sharp "kik", "Keritt" or "chee-it" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Grey-headed lapwing - Vanellus cinereus
1.Birds of India - Image of Grey-headed lapwing - Vanellus cinereus by Alpsdake

Birds of India - Photo of Grey-headed lapwing - Vanellus cinereus
2.Indian birds - Picture of Grey-headed lapwing - Vanellus cinereus by Alpsdake

Indian birds - Image of Grey-headed lapwing - Vanellus cinereus
3.Birds of India - Photo of Grey-headed lapwing - Vanellus cinereus by Alpsdake

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The grey-headed lapwing species are distributed in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Japan, Hongkong, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and Taiwan.

Vagrant birds have been observed in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Philippines.

In India, the grey-headed lapwings are distributed in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of the grey-headed lapwing in India is Mangal Jodi. The IBA in Thailand is Lower Central Basin. The IBA in Japan are Shiokawa tidal flat and Yahagigawa estuary.

Ecosystem and habitat

These grey-headed lapwing species do not normally occur in forest. These species normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 2000 meters.

The artificial ecosystems and habitats of these grey-headed lapwing species include cultivated fields, rice fields, flooded agricultural lands and flooded pasturelands.

The natural ecosystems of these grey-headed lapwing species include tropical and subtropical flooded grasslands, wetlands, swamps, marshes, peatlands, riverbeds in the lowlands, rivers, streams and creeks.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of the grey-headed lapwing consists mainly of invertebrates. Insects, aquatic insects, small fish, shrimp, worms and molluscs are their primary food. These lapwing species feed on small invertebrates on or under the ground and in shallow, muddy waters.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of the grey-headed lapwing species is from March to August in much of its breeding range. These grey-headed lapwing species are monogamous and highly territorial. Sometimes neighboring two or more breeding pairs form a defensive flock.

If a intruder is found in one of the territories, the neighboring lapwing pairs help in driving away the intruder. They make alarm calls and fly in circles over the predator and launch an attack.

The grey-headed lapwing nesting sites include wet habitats like paddy fields, fallow fields and dry river beds. Agricultural activities like plowing and rice planting destroy several nests.

The lapwing nest is a shallow depression on the ground lined with stems and blades of grass collected from the surrounding areas. The typical grey-headed lapwing clutch contains four pale green or brown eggs with dark speckles all over.

Both lapwing pairs take turns to incubate the eggs. The chicks hatch out in 28 days. The hatchlings leave the nest within two days after hatching. They can forage themselves and follow their parents. They fledge in 44 days.

Migration and movement patterns

These grey-headed lapwing species are partially migratory birds.

The breeding lapwing populations occur in northeastern China, adjoining Russia and Japan. After October, most of the breeding populations in snowy regions migrate southwards for wintering.

Some populations may stay and winter in the breeding grounds, especially in Japan. The migrated population return to the breeding grounds in late February and early March.

The juvenile lapwings also migrate along with the adults and disperse and establish in new locations within the wintering range. They may make local movements for feeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the grey-headed lapwing (Vanellus cinereus) is estimated to number 25,000 to 100,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these species is reported to be decreasing.

Throughout its range this lapwing species is reported to be rare to common. The generation length is 8.9 years. Its distribution size is about 3,150,000

Habitat degradation and fragmentation and draining of wetlands are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these lapwing species.

IUCN and CITES status

The grey-headed lapwing (Vanellus cinereus) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or 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 of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for grey-headed lapwing (Vanellus cinereus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Vanellus cinereus
Species:V. cinereus
Binomial name:Vanellus cinereus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The grey-headed lapwing (Vanellus cinereus) was formerly placed in the genus Microsarcops. Sometimes these lapwing species are placed in genus Hoplopterus.
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1.Grey-headed lapwing photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Alpsdake | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
2.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Alpsdake | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
3.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Alpsdake | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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