The Spur-winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus) is a striking bird known for its bold behavior and distinctive appearance, common across much of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Middle East. Characterized by its black and white plumage, long, red legs, and a prominent black spur protruding from the wing, which gives the species its name, this bird is a sight to behold in the wetlands and open grasslands it inhabits. Spur-winged Lapwings are highly territorial and vocal, especially during the breeding season when their piercing calls can be heard echoing across their habitat. They are adept at living in natural and human-modified landscapes, often seen foraging in agricultural fields and along water bodies, where they feed on insects, worms, and other small invertebrates.


These birds are known for their aggressive defense of nesting sites, not hesitating to dive-bomb humans and other intruders to protect their chicks and eggs. The Spur-winged Lapwing nests on the ground, laying camouflaged eggs that blend seamlessly with the surrounding environment. Their adaptability to different habitats has allowed them to thrive in a wide range of environments, although they depend on the availability of wetlands for breeding. Conservation efforts for the Spur-winged Lapwing focus on protecting and restoring wetland habitats, which are essential for their feeding and breeding activities.


Despite habitat loss and degradation challenges, the Spur-winged Lapwing has maintained stable populations in many areas thanks to its adaptability and suitable habitats. These birds are migratory in the northern parts of their range, traveling to warmer regions during the winter months. Conservation initiatives aimed at preserving wetland ecosystems are crucial for ensuring the continued survival of the Spur-winged Lapwing. Public awareness and involvement in conservation projects can further enhance the protection of this species and its natural habitats.



Physical Description:

The Spur-winged Lapwing is easily recognized by its striking black and white plumage, with a prominent white patch on its back visible during flight. The bird’s head and chest are predominantly black, contrasting with the white belly and a black tail tipped with white. Both males and females exhibit similar plumage, making it difficult to distinguish between the sexes based on coloration alone. However, males are generally slightly larger and have a more pronounced spur on the wing, used in territorial disputes and defense against predators.

Adult Spur-winged Lapwings typically measure 11-13 inches (28-33 cm) in length and weigh 8.8-11 ounces (250-310 grams), with males at the upper end of this range and females slightly smaller. Their wingspan ranges from 26-29 inches (65-75 cm), allowing them agile flight and maneuverability over their wetland habitats. The red legs and bill of the Spur-winged Lapwing add to its distinctive appearance, making it one of the more colorful members of its family. These physical attributes contribute to the bird’s striking appearance and play a crucial role in its behavior and ecology, from foraging to defending territory.

Lifespan: Wild: ~10 Years || Captivity: ~15 Years

Weight: Male & Female: 8.8-11 oz (250-310 g)

Length: Male & Female: 11-13 in (28-33 cm)

Wingspan: Male & Female: 26-29 in (65-75 cm)

Top Speed: 50 mph (80 km/h)

Native Habitat:

Spur-winged Lapwings inhabit a wide range of wetland habitats, including marshes, riversides, lakeshores, floodplains, agricultural fields and grasslands close to water. They are well adapted to freshwater and brackish environments, demonstrating their ecological flexibility. These birds are native to sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Middle East, benefiting from the diverse wetland ecosystems available in these regions. The maintenance and restoration of these habitats are vital for the Spur-winged Lapwing, as wetlands provide essential resources for feeding, breeding, and shelter.

Spur-winged Lapwings’ distribution largely depends on the presence of suitable wetland habitats, which are increasingly under threat from human activities such as drainage for agriculture, urban development, and pollution. Conservation efforts focused on wetland preservation and restoration are key to ensuring the survival of the Spur-winged Lapwing and the myriad other species that rely on these ecosystems. Protected areas and conservation programs that include wetland habitats play a crucial role in safeguarding the Spur-winged Lapwing’s future. Sustainable water management practices are also essential for maintaining the health and biodiversity of wetland ecosystems, benefiting Spur-winged Lapwings and countless other species.

Climate Zones:
Biogeographical Realms:

Diet & Feeding Habits:

The Spur-winged Lapwing is an omnivore, primarily feeding on insects, worms, small fish, and crustaceans, which it finds by foraging in mud and shallow water. They use their long, sharp bill to probe the soil and water for prey, displaying great skill in capturing fast-moving or buried food items. These birds often feed in groups, especially in agricultural fields, using cultivated land to find food. The presence of Spur-winged Lapwings in farmlands can benefit farmers by controlling pest populations, highlighting the ecological importance of this species.

Seasonal changes affect the availability of certain prey, influencing the Spur-winged Lapwing’s diet throughout the year. They adapt their feeding strategies to the conditions of their habitat, showcasing their versatility and resilience. Protecting wetland areas is crucial for maintaining healthy prey populations for the Spur-winged Lapwing and other wetland species. Sustainable agricultural practices and wetland conservation can help ensure these birds’ continued availability of food sources, supporting their populations in natural and human-modified landscapes.

Mating Behavior:

Mating Description:

Spur-winged Lapwings are monogamous, with pairs forming strong bonds for several breeding seasons. During the breeding season, males perform elaborate displays, including aerial maneuvers and loud calling, to attract females and defend their territory. Nesting sites are typically located on the ground in open areas, where the female lays 2-4 hidden eggs. Both parents share responsibilities in incubating the eggs and protecting the nest site, showcasing their commitment to the success of their offspring.

The aggressive defense of the nesting area by Spur-winged Lapwings, including the use of their wing spurs against potential predators, is a notable aspect of their breeding behavior. This protective behavior extends to the chicks, who are precocial and able to leave the nest shortly after hatching but remain under the watchful care of their parents. The breeding season is closely tied to the rainy season, which ensures the availability of ample food resources for the growing chicks. Conservation of open grassland and wetland areas is essential for providing suitable breeding sites for Spur-winged Lapwings, highlighting the importance of habitat protection in their conservation.

Reproduction Season:

Birth Type:

Pregnancy Duration:

~28 Days (Incubation)

Female Name:


Male Name:


Baby Name:


Social Structure Description:

Spur-winged Lapwings are social birds, often found in pairs or small groups, especially outside the breeding season. They exhibit strong territorial behavior, vigorously defending their nesting and feeding areas against intruders. Social interactions within groups include a range of vocalizations and visual displays, which maintain group cohesion and communicate threats or opportunities. The cooperative nature of breeding, with both parents involved in nest defense and chick rearing, highlights the importance of social bonds in the species’ reproductive success.

Understanding the social behavior of Spur-winged Lapwings can provide insights into their ecological needs and the importance of protecting their social environments. Reserving suitable habitats supports the social structure and ecological dynamics of Spur-winged Lapwing populations. Research into the social interactions and communication of Spur-winged Lapwings can inform conservation strategies, ensuring the protection of vital social and feeding habitats. Conservation efforts that maintain the social integrity of Spur-winged Lapwing populations are essential for sustaining the ecological balance of wetland ecosystems.


Conservation Status:
Population Trend:


Wild: Unknown || Captivity: Unknown


The Spur-winged Lapwing is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, reflecting its wide distribution and stable population trend. However, localized declines have been observed where human activities have significantly impacted wetland habitats. Conservation efforts focused on preserving and restoring wetland and grassland habitats are crucial for ensuring the continued stability of Spur-winged Lapwing populations. Monitoring and research are essential for understanding the species’ population dynamics and the effectiveness of conservation strategies.

The adaptability of the Spur-winged Lapwing to different environments has been key to its survival, but ongoing habitat degradation threatens this resilience. Conservation initiatives that include habitat protection, sustainable land-use practices, and community engagement can support the conservation of the Spur-winged Lapwing. Public education and awareness campaigns can raise the profile of the Spur-winged Lapwing and the importance of wetland conservation. Collaborative efforts between conservation organizations, governments, and local communities are essential for protecting the Spur-winged Lapwing and its habitat.

Population Threats:

The main threats to the Spur-winged Lapwing include habitat loss and degradation due to agricultural expansion, urbanization, and pollution. Wetland drainage for agriculture and development reduces the availability of breeding and feeding sites, impacting the species’ reproductive success and survival. Climate change also threatens precipitation patterns and water availability in wetland habitats, potentially affecting the Spur-winged Lapwing’s food sources and nesting sites. Additionally, pesticide use in agricultural areas can reduce prey availability, posing a risk to Spur-winged Lapwing populations.

Conservation measures must address these threats through habitat protection, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, and managing water resources. Efforts to reduce pesticide use and implement eco-friendly farming techniques can benefit Spur-winged Lapwings and other wildlife. Legal protections for wetland areas and enforcement of environmental regulations are also crucial for safeguarding the habitats of the Spur-winged Lapwing. Engaging farmers and landowners in conservation initiatives can help mitigate the impacts of agriculture on Spur-winged Lapwing populations and their habitats.

Conservation Efforts:

Conservation initiatives for the Spur-winged Lapwing focus on protecting and restoring wetland and grassland habitats, which are crucial for their survival. Seating protected areas encompassing key habitats has been instrumental in conserving Spur-winged Lapwing populations. Community-based conservation programs that involve residents in habitat management and protection can enhance the effectiveness of conservation efforts. Environmental education programs to raise awareness of the importance of wetland ecosystems can foster support for conserving the Spur-winged Lapwing and its habitat.

Research and monitoring activities are essential for assessing the Spur-winged Lapwing’s conservation status and the wetland ecosystems’ health. Sustainable water management practices are key to maintaining the ecological integrity of wetlands, benefiting Spur-winged Lapwings and a wide range of other species. International cooperation is necessary for the conservation of migratory populations and the protection of cross-border wetland habitats. Continued commitment to wetland conservation and effective conservation strategies are vital for ensuring the long-term survival of the Spur-winged Lapwing.

Additional Resources:

Fun Facts

  • The Spur-winged Lapwing gets its name from the sharp spur hidden on the leading edge of its wings, used for defense.
  • Unlike many other bird species, Spur-winged Lapwings can be quite aggressive, even chasing off much larger animals from their territory.
  • These birds are excellent swimmers, often seen paddling in shallow waters in search of food.
  • The Spur-winged Lapwing’s eggs are remarkably well camouflaged, resembling the color and texture of the surrounding soil and vegetation.
  • They have a unique adaptation in their middle toe, which has a comb-like structure that is thought to help with grooming and feeding.
  • Spur-winged Lapwings are known for their dramatic and noisy flying displays, especially during the breeding season.
  • These birds can adapt to living near humans, often seen foraging in agricultural lands and urban parks.
  • The call of the Spur-winged Lapwing is a loud, penetrating “pee-o-wit,” which can be heard over long distances.
  • In ancient times, the eggs of lapwings, including the Spur-winged Lapwing, were highly prized as a delicacy.
  • Conservation efforts for Spur-winged Lapwings protect these unique birds and the rich biodiversity of wetland habitats where they live.