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10 Fascinating Facts About the Black-headed Lapwing

The Black-headed Lapwing, also known as Vanellus tectus, is a wading bird species found in many parts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent. This birds striking appearance and unique behaviors make it a fascinating species to observe.

In this article, we will delve into the identification, plumages, and molts of this remarkable bird.


The Black-headed Lapwing stands out due to its striking appearance. As the name suggests, the bird has a black head, neck, and upper chest.

Its back is a dark metallic green, while its breast, wings, and tail are white. When in flight, the bird displays its impressive black and white wing pattern, which is unmistakable.



Despite its distinctive markings, identifying a Black-headed Lapwing in the field can be challenging from a distance. The bird can be mistaken for a number of other lapwing species, including the Long-toed Lapwing, the River Lapwing, and the Senegal Lapwing.

However, its black head, dark green back, and white underparts offer some clues for identification.

Similar Species

The Long-toed Lapwing looks similar to the Black-headed Lapwing, but lacks the black head and has a brown back. The River Lapwing has a white forehead, and its underparts are buff-colored instead of white.

In contrast, the Senegal Lapwing has a buff crown and nape, and its underparts are buff with black barring.


The Black-headed Lapwing has two distinct plumages. In breeding plumage, the bird displays a striking blackish head and neck, while in non-breeding plumage, the black fades to dark brown.

The white underparts remain the same.


The Black-headed Lapwing undergoes two molts each year. The first molt occurs after the breeding season, during which the bird sheds its feathers and replaces them with a new set.

During this time, the bird is flightless and vulnerable to predators. The second molt occurs before the breeding season, during which the bird replaces its feathers again.

In conclusion, the Black-headed Lapwing is a fascinating bird species that is easily identified by its black and white plumage, even though it can be challenging to identify in the field. Its distinctive plumages and molts make it an interesting bird to study and observe.

We hope this article has provided you with valuable information about this remarkable species. to the article, as the purpose is to inform rather than persuade or summarize.

Systematics History

The Black-headed Lapwing, also known as Vanellus tectus, belongs to the Jacanas, Sandpipers, Snipes, and Phalaropes family. Systematics history of the bird encompasses its classification, phylogeny, and evolution.

The Black-headed Lapwing was first described by Temminck in 1820.

Geographic Variation

Geographic variation refers to the variation in the physical or biological characteristics of an animal species within its geographical range. The Black-headed Lapwing shows some geographical variation in plumage characteristics, such as the color of the upperparts, black head, and neck.

This variation arises due to environmental and genetic factors.


The Black-headed Lapwing has three subspecies, which are mainly distinguished by their size and coloration. These are:


Vanellus tectus tectus, which is found in southern Angola and Namibia, and has the largest size of the subspecies. 2.

Vanellus tectus albigularis, which is found in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa, has a smaller size, and a white throat. 3.

Vanellus tectus major, which is found in India and Sri Lanka, and has a smaller size and a more contrasting black and white head.

Related Species

The Black-headed Lapwing is part of the Vanellus genus, which consists of 20 species. The African Wattled Lapwing, Egyptian Lapwing, and Red-wattled Lapwing are some of the related species in the same genus.

They share similar physical characteristics, such as a relatively long and narrow bill and colorful plumage, but can be distinguished by some subtle differences.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The distribution of the Black-headed Lapwing has undergone some significant changes throughout history. The species was initially thought to be restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, but later studies found that it also occurred in the Indian subcontinent.

Historically, the species was considered a resident bird in the central and southern parts of Africa, with migratory populations in northern Africa. However, with the advent of irrigation and cultivation practices, the species is now a year-round resident in many previously non-breeding locations.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the bird was also introduced to various islands in the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Reunion. These populations were established to control insects and pests on plantations.

The bird has since become established on these islands and has even been recorded in some parts of Madagascar. Humans have also introduced the Black-headed Lapwing to some parts of Europe, North America, and South America.

These populations, however, did not establish breeding populations and are considered as occasional vagrants. In conclusion, the Black-headed Lapwing is a fascinating bird species with a rich systematics history.

Although it shows some geographical variation, it has three recognized subspecies, and can be distinguished from other related species in the same genus. With historical changes to its distribution, the Black-headed Lapwing has become established beyond its native African range and continues to thrive in areas where its habitat needs are met.

to the article, as the purpose is to inform rather than persuade or summarize.


The Black-headed Lapwing prefers open plains and grassland areas with some wetland habitats, such as riverbanks, swamps, and marshes. The bird is also found in agricultural fields, around inland water bodies, and in pastures.

In the Indian subcontinent, they can be seen in parks, golf courses, and other man-made habitats. The bird’s preferred breeding habitat is in short grass with some sparse shrubs or vegetation for cover.

During the non-breeding season, the bird can be found in wetter areas, such as shallow pools and marshes.

Movements and Migration

The Black-headed Lapwing is largely resident throughout its range. However, some populations are known to undertake short-distance movements within their breeding and non-breeding habitats.

During the breeding season, some birds have been observed to move away from wetland habitats to drier areas with short grass, which is more suitable for raising their chicks. Although the bird is largely resident, some populations in northern Africa are known to be migratory, covering vast distances during their annual migration.

These birds are known to travel over the Sahara desert to wintering grounds in central and southern Africa. The birds begin to migrate in August and September, and they return to their breeding grounds in March or April.

There are also some populations of Black-headed Lapwings that undertake altitudinal migration. These are birds that breed at higher elevations, in areas such as Ethiopia and the highlands of Zimbabwe.

During the non-breeding season, they move to lower elevations, where the climate is milder.


The Black-headed Lapwing has a wide distribution range and is not currently considered as an endangered species. However, the bird’s population has declined in some parts of its range, particularly in South Africa, where it has suffered from habitat loss due to urbanization, mining, and agricultural intensification.

In Mauritius, the bird is a non-native species that was introduced to control insect pests on sugarcane plantations. There are concerns about the bird’s impact on native bird species, and some measures have been taken to limit their numbers on the island.


The Black-headed Lapwing is a fascinating bird species that is found in many parts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Its preferred habitat is open grasslands with some wetland areas, and it can undertake short-distance movements within its range.

Although it is largely resident, some populations are known to undertake seasonal and altitudinal migration. The species is not currently listed as an endangered species, but it has suffered from habitat loss in some parts of its range.

Understanding the bird’s habitat needs and migration patterns is essential for its conservation. to the article, as the purpose is to inform rather than persuade or summarize.

Diet and Foraging


The Black-headed Lapwing is a foraging bird species that feeds by walking and pecking the ground. The bird is also known to probe the soil with its bill, search for food on the surface of wetlands, and dig into the mud to locate prey.

The Black-headed Lapwing shares the characteristics of its genus in its feeding behavior, with its preference for feeding in open areas with short grass and sparse shrubs.


The bird’s diet mainly consists of insects and other invertebrates, but also includes small vertebrates, such as frogs, tadpoles, and lizards. The Black-headed Lapwing also eats the eggs of insects and other birds, as well as seeds and plant matter.

The Black-headed Lapwing uses its bill to pick up food from the ground and to probe the mud for invertebrates.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Black-headed Lapwing, like other birds, has a high metabolic rate that enables it to fly, forage, and maintain a high body temperature. This high metabolic rate is essential for the bird to maintain its body functions, including digestion, growth, and reproduction.

The bird’s body temperature is regulated by a variety of mechanisms, including panting and feather fluffing. During hot weather, the Black-headed Lapwing will regulate its body temperature by panting, which increases the rate of heat loss through its respiratory system.

During cold weather, the bird will fluff up its feathers to increase the insulating quality of its plumage and retain heat.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Black-headed Lapwing is a noisy bird species and produces a wide range of vocalizations, including calls for communication and territorial defense. The bird’s normal call is a loud ‘kleep-kleep-kleep’ or ‘ke-ke-ke’ that can be heard from far away.

The bird also produces a high-pitched warning call when it detects a potential predator and a loud, high-pitched vocalization when it takes flight. During the breeding season, the male Black-headed Lapwing is known to produce a unique, melodious ‘tseer tseer tseer’ call as part of a courtship display to attract potential mates.

The bird may also engage in aerial displays to attract and impress females. These aerial displays involve the bird flying up high into the air, then twisting and turning before plummeting to the ground.

In conclusion, the Black-headed Lapwing is a foraging bird species with a diverse diet that mainly consists of invertebrates. The bird’s metabolism is high, and it is equipped with mechanisms to regulate its body temperature.

The Black-headed Lapwing is also a noisy bird species that produces a wide range of vocalizations, including calls for communication and territorial defense. The bird’s unique, melodious ‘tseer tseer tseer’ call adds to its allure and is an important part of its courtship display.

to the article, as the purpose is to inform rather than persuade or summarize.



The Black-headed Lapwing is a ground-dwelling bird species that moves around by walking and running. The bird’s long legs and pointed wings enable it to take off quickly and fly short distances, but it is not known for its flying abilities.

The bird’s ability to navigate through open plains and nest in sparse shrubs has given it an advantage in the grassland habitat.

Self Maintenance

Like other bird species, the Black-headed Lapwing engages in self-maintenance behaviors to keep its feathers clean and in good condition. The bird will preen its feathers using its beak to remove dirt and debris.

It will also use sand or dust baths to remove excess oil from its feathers.

Agonistic Behavior

The Black-headed Lapwing can be aggressive when defending its territory or nesting site and will engage in agonistic behavior when threatened. This includes fanning its wings and running at an opponent with a lowered head.

The bird may also puff up its feathers and open its bill to make itself appear larger and more intimidating.

Sexual Behavior

During the breeding season, male Black-headed Lapwings engage in courtship displays to attract females. These displays involve the male performing aerial acrobatics, puffing up its feathers, and calling out to the female.

Once a female has been attracted, the pair will form a bond and engage in mutual preening to cement their relationship.


The Black-headed Lapwing is generally monogamous and forms strong pair bonds during the breeding season. The bird’s breeding season begins in late October and extends through to March or April, depending on the location of their habitat.

The female Black-headed Lapwing lays a clutch of two to three eggs in a shallow scrape in the ground, usually hidden behind a small rock or plant stem. Both parents will incubate the eggs, which hatch after approximately 28 days.

Once hatched, the chicks will leave the nest and start feeding on insects within a few hours. The chicks are precocial and can run and forage for themselves shortly after hatching.

Demography and Populations

The Black-headed Lapwing’s populations are considered stable throughout its range, and the species is not currently listed as a conservation concern. However, some populations may be declining due to habitat loss, habitat degradation, and other factors.

The bird is found in large numbers across its range, with some populations numbering in the thousands. The Black-headed Lapwing is a resident bird species in many areas, but some populations undertake seasonal migration and altitudinal movement during the non-breeding season.

In conclusion, the Black-headed Lapwing is a ground-dwelling bird species that uses a combination of running and flying for locomotion. The species engages in a range of self-maintenance behaviors and is known to be aggressive when defending its territory and nesting site.

During the breeding season, the Black-headed Lapwing forms monogamous pairs and engages in courtship displays. The species has a stable population throughout most of its range, and its breeding patterns are similar to those of other bird species.

In conclusion, this article has explored the many fascinating aspects of the Black-headed Lapwing. From its striking appearance and unique behaviors, to its habitat, diet, and vocalizations, this bird species has captivated the attention of bird enthusiasts for decades.

We have examined the Black-headed Lapwing’s systematics history, population demographics, and breeding behavior, and delved into its movements and migration patterns. Understanding these aspects of the Black-headed Lapwing is essential for its conservation and adds to our collective knowledge of the natural world.

This majestic bird serves as a reminder of the beauty and diversity of the world’s avian species and the importance of preserving their habitats and behaviors for future generations to appreciate.

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