Sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregarius)

Male sociable lapwing
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Sociable lapwing fact file

Sociable lapwing description

GenusVanellus (1)

This conspicuously marked plover has yellow cheeks beneath a black stripe running from the black beak through the eye. It has a white stripe above this and a black cap on the crown. The wings, chest and tail are pale brown, with a dark brown, red and white underside. Juveniles are pale brown with a streaked black belly. The sociable lapwing calls with a harsh ‘kretsch kretsch’ and a rapid chattering (2).

Also known as
Sociable plover.
Vanneau sociable.
Length: 27 – 30 cm (2)

Sociable lapwing biology

Breeding in the west-central Asian steppes between the end of March and early July (5), the sociable plover nests semi-colonially in open country (2) (5). The nests are usually unlined depressions in the earth, unless conditions are damp, when nests of grass and weeds are constructed. Four eggs are laid and are incubated for 25 days. The male and female lapwings care for the hatchlings until they fledge 35 to 40 days later (5).

The sociable lapwing forages in large groups on the ground, walking slowly and picking up insects, particularly beetles and their larvae, grasshoppers and moth larvae (5).


Sociable lapwing range

The sociable lapwing breeds in Russia and Kazakhstan, dispersing through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey to winter grounds in Israel, Eritrea, Sudan and north-west India. It may also be found in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Oman during the winter. However, this species is suffering a very rapid decline in numbers and a severe range reduction (2).


Sociable lapwing habitat

Inhabits grassland steppes with salty areas, near water. Winters on dry plains, sandy spots and short grasslands, in close proximity to a water source (2).


Sociable lapwing status

The sociable lapwing is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and is listed on Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (3). It is also listed on the African-Eurasian Migratory Water Bird Agreement (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered


Sociable lapwing threats

The cause of the recent decline in sociable lapwing numbers is unknown, but it has been suggested that their habitat may have been changed after a reduction in grazing by large herds of native ungulates and domestic cattle. This species increasingly breeds near villages, where conversion of the land to farmland is imminent, and where additional threats, such as predation by domestic animals, are more likely. A further concern is the substantial increase in numbers of a predator of the sociable lapwing, the rook, Corvus frugilegus. Finally, both the breeding and wintering grounds of this species have become drier, which may be disrupting prey organism availability (2).


Sociable lapwing conservation

The sociable lapwing is legally protected in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Plans to survey the bird’s movements in Kazakhstan should help to identify key threats. Protecting grassland steppe habitats, regulating livestock numbers and managing colonies during the nesting period are all key aims in plans to conserve this species (2).

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

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Relating to or belonging to a colony (a group of organisms living together in a group).
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 biome (or subdivision of the Earth’s surface) that is composed of a swathe of temperate grassland stretching from Romania to China.
Hoofed, grazing mammals.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
  2. BirdLife International (January, 2005)
  3. Convention on Migratory Species (May, 2008)
  4. African-Eurasian Migratory Water Bird Agreement (January, 2005)
  5. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

Image credit

Male sociable lapwing  
Male sociable lapwing

© Paul F. Donald, RSPB

Paul F. Donald


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