Pied lapwing (Vanellus cayanus)

Pied lapwing with caiman in background
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Pied lapwing fact file

Pied lapwing description

GenusVanellus (1)

A small and rather attractive bird, the pied lapwing is boldly patterned in black and white, with brownish-grey wings and back, a bright red eye ring, and long, bright red legs. The crown is sandy brown, circled with white, while the forehead, sides of the head and back of the neck are black, and a black breast band crosses otherwise white underparts. A conspicuous white and black band runs down the scapulars (‘shoulders’), and the beak is also black (2) (3). The male and female pied lapwing are similar in appearance, while the juvenile resembles the adult, but has a browner mask, a smaller, dusky grey breast band, and less developed scapular markings (2). In flight, the primaries and the outer half of the tail appear black, while most of the inner half of the wings, together with the rump and the base of the tail, are white (2) (3). The call is a quick, whistled wheé-whoo (3).

Also known as
Cayenne lapwing, Cayenne plover, little white-winged lapwing, little white-winged plover, pied plover.
Hoploxypterus cayanus.
Length: 21 - 24 cm (2)
55 - 84 g (2)

Pied lapwing biology

The biology of the pied lapwing is not well known. Usually seen alone, or sometimes in small groups, the species often stands quietly near water, or runs short distances across the sand, stopping occasionally to search the ground for prey (3). The diet is thought to include a variety of insects, as well as snails (2). The pied lapwing may perform undulating flight displays during the breeding season, which may be around May to July in some areas (2). The nest is simply a slight depression in the ground, and two to three eggs are laid (2) (3). Little other information is available on the breeding behaviour of this species, but Charles Darwin, during his travels on HMS Beagle, noted that the adult pied lapwing may perform a distraction display, pretending to be wounded to draw potential predators away from the nest (4).


Pied lapwing range

The pied lapwing is found in South America, east of the Andes mountains, from eastern Colombia, east to the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil, and south to Paraguay, southeastern Brazil, and the extreme north of Argentina (2) (3).


Pied lapwing habitat

The pied lapwing inhabits mudflats, sand bars, sandy banks of ponds and rivers, and freshwater pools. It can also be found along the coast (2) (3).


Pied lapwing status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Pied lapwing threats

The pied lapwing is not believed to be globally threatened, although population sizes and trends have yet to be quantified (2) (5). Little information is available on the potential threats faced by this species.


Pied lapwing conservation

There are no known conservation measures in place for the pied lapwing. More research may be needed to quantify population trends and to identify any threats before any conservation measures, if necessary, can be put in place.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To read more about the pied lapwing, see:



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In birds, the main flight feathers, projecting along the outer edge of the wing.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2009)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Hilty, S.L. and Brown, W.L. (1986) A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  4. Darwin, C. (1846) Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Round the World under the Command of Capt. FitzRoy, R.N. Harper and Brothers, Publishers, New York. Available at:
  5. BirdLife International (March, 2009)

Image credit

Pied lapwing with caiman in background  
Pied lapwing with caiman in background

© Staffan Widstrand / naturepl.com

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