Red-wattled lapwing (Vanellus indicus)

Red-wattled lapwing in shallow water
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Red-wattled lapwing fact file

Red-wattled lapwing description

GenusVanellus (1)

The boldly patterned red-wattled lapwing (Vanellus indicusi) is named for the vivid red, fleshy, wrinkled skin, or wattle, in front of each eye (3). This wading bird has greyish brown upperparts, except for the jet black head, neck and upper breast (4) (3). A broad white stripe extends from each eye down the sides of the neck, drawing a clear line between the black and brown plumage. When in flight, the white rump and tail can also be seen, with a broad black band extending across the tail (5). The bill of the red-wattled lapwing is red with a black tip, the eyes are reddish-brown, and the long legs are bright yellow (3).

The male and female red-wattled lapwing are similar in appearance, while the juvenile has duller plumage. The juvenile also has a white throat, a greyish-brown breast and a white speckled crown (2).

A noisy bird, the red-wattled lapwing utters its loud cry both during flight and when on the ground. The call is a series of loud, shrill notes, expressed well by the words ‘did-he-do-it pity-to-do-it(3).

Four subspecies of the red-wattled lapwing are normally recognized: Vallenus indicus aigneri, Vallenus indicus indicus, Vallenus indicus lankae andVallenus indicus atronuchalis (6). Each subspecies differs slightly in the coloration of the upperparts and in size, but more significantly in the glossiness of the plumage. The subspecies V. i. lankae is the smallest, darkest and glossiest, while V. i. aigneri is the largest and palest (2).

Also known as
red-wattled plover.
Hoplopterus indicus.
Length: 32 - 35 cm (2)
Wingspan: 80 - 81 cm (2)
110 - 230 g (2)

Red-wattled lapwing biology

A monogamous bird (2), the red-wattled lapwing breeds from March to August, and the majority of eggs are laid in May or June (3). The nest is usually just a simple shallow scrape in the ground, that can be encircled with small stones or hard clay (3). It is typically situated on open, slightly elevated ground in close proximity to water (2) (3). The female red-wattled lapwing usually lays three or four eggs which can vary in colour from pale olive-green to yellowish or red, and are profusely marked with blackish-brown or black (3). The eggs are incubated for 26 to 30 days and the male and female lapwings care for the hatchlings until they fledge at 38 days (2).

While some red-wattled lapwings remain in the same location year-round, those that occupy higher altitudes tend to migrate to lower elevations for winter (2). During winter, the red-wattled lapwing is occasionally seen in scattered flocks, while in the breeding season it is typically found in pairs or on its own (3).

The diet of the red-wattled lapwing comprises beetles and various other insects, including ants, butterfly and fly larvae, bugs, grasshoppers, earwigs, and also worms, molluscs and crustaceans (2). It typically forages at dawn, dusk and during moonlit nights (2).


Red-wattled lapwing range

The red-wattled lapwing has a wide distribution throughout Asia, stretching from Turkey in the west to Thailand in the east (7).

The subspecies V. i. aigneri is distributed from southeast Turkey, across Iraq and Iran, to west Pakistan, while V. i. indicus occurs in eastern Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. V. i. lankae is found only in Sri Lanka, and V. i. atronuchalis is distributed from northeast India across to northern Malaysia and Vietnam (2).


Red-wattled lapwing habitat

The red-wattled lapwing inhabits open areas from lowlands up to 1,800 metres above sea level (2). It shows a preference for sites in close proximity to freshwater, such as wet grasslands, rivers, streams, creeks, marshes and pools (2) (3) (7). The red-wattled lapwing may also be found on artificial land such as corn fields, ploughed land, rural gardens, and even occasionally on grass along highways (2).


Red-wattled lapwing status

The red-wattled lapwing is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Red-wattled lapwing threats

The red-wattled lapwing is not known to be facing any major threats and is therefore not considered to be an endangered species (7)


Red-wattled lapwing conservation

There are currently no known conservation measures in place for the red-wattled lapwing.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

More information on the red-wattled lapwing:



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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


A diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
Kept warm so that development is possible.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following; a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
A fleshy organ that hangs from the bill, throat or eye of some bird species.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  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. Norman, K.B. (2007) Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. Fourth Edition. Gurney and Jackson, London.
  4. Robson, C. (2007) New Holland Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia. New Holland Publishers, London.
  5. Harrison, J. (2011) A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Dickinson, E.C. (2003) The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. A & C Black Publishers Ltd, London.
  7. BirdLife International (November, 2010)

Image credit

Red-wattled lapwing in shallow water  
Red-wattled lapwing in shallow water

© Philip Perry /

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