Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Northern Lapwing

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Charadriidae | [latin] Vanellus vanellus | [UK] Northern Lapwing | [FR] Vanneau huppe | [DE] Kiebitz | [ES] Avefria Europea | [NL] Kievit


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Metallic glossy green upperparts, blackish crest and bronze scapulars, very broad wings, especially in breeding males. Female has lees distinctive head pattern and white flecks on throat. Non breeding adult has buff face, and white chin and throat. Juvenile similar to non breeding akult, but has more extensive buff feather fringes and narrower and browner breast band.

Listen to the sound of Northern Lapwing

[audio: Lapwing.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 67 cm wingspan max.: 72 cm
size min.: 28 cm size max.: 31 cm
incubation min.: 26 days incubation max.: 28 days
fledging min.: 35 days fledging max.: 28 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : widespread


Breeds in variety of wide open habitats with short vegetation or bare ground, including various wetlands, heaths, moors, arable fields, meadows and hay fields.
Outside breeding season also appears on harvested stubble and ploughed fields. Roosting flocks prefer spacious, old pastures and sometimes appear on mudflats.


Breeding starts in March-June, mostly seasonally monogamous, but sometimes polygamous. Territorial during incubation, solitary breeder, with average densities. High degree of site faithfulness in males, and high degree of natal philopatry, usually nesting within 60 km of hatching site. Nest is shallow scrape, lined with some vegetation, situated in short grassy vegetation. 4 eggs, incubation 21-28 days. Downy chick pale brown or cinnamon, with black streaks and blotches and white nape. Chicks tended by both parents, although brooding primarily by female. Age of first breeding 1 year.

Feeding habits

Feeds on invertebrate pry, primarily earthworms and insects, including beetles, ants, moths and crickets, also spiders and snails.
On arable fields, adults and chicks take mainly cranefly larvae and earthworms.
Sometimes feeds by foot trembling. Diurnal and nocturnal, sometimes even primarily nocturnal on bright, moonlit nights.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Northern Lapwing status Least Concern


Mainly migratory, though some western and southern sub-populations only partially so. Sensitive to prolonged cold; hence winter distribution (and associated migration pattern) reflects preference then for maritime climate and general avoidance of continental-type weather. Britain and Ireland constitute northernmost regular wintering areas, though small flocks remain in Denmark and Germany.
Dispersal from breeding areas begins late May and June, when many adults in particular make long westward movements. Thus many from central Europe move west to north-west in early summer to Low Countries and Britain, while some pass south-west into Italy and southern France. Summer movements merge into autumn migration during September-November as increasing numbers of juveniles leave natal areas. Unlike leisurely summer movements, autumn passage typically a rush migration with onset of frost season. European ringing recoveries show broad-front passages predominantly towards south-west, along western seaboard, and into Iberia and North Africa, with eastern birds (including those from Finland) reaching Italy and crossing central Mediterranean into North Africa. In more northern wintering areas (British Isles and Low Countries) occasional spells of very cold weather in winter lead to pronounced movements, which can occur any time between autumn and spring passages. Such movements to some extent south to south-west (more reach North Africa in colder European winters), but also westwards across North Sea and England into Ireland. Spring passage begins early-from late January in southern wintering areas and in temperate Europe is at peak in early March. Breeding grounds reoccupied March-April, averaging later in north and east.

Distribution map

Northern Lapwing distribution range map

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