Spur-winged lapwing (Vanellus spinosus)

Author: Bibitayo Ayobami Owolabi. Department of Wildlife and Ecotourism Management. Osun State University, Osogbo, Nigeria. bibitayo.owolabi@uniosun.edu.ng. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0136-6720

The spur-winged lapwing or spur-winged plover (Vanellus spinosus) is a lapwing species, a water bird in the family Charadriidae. They are often called a largish warder because they are commonly found along shorelines and mudflats where they forage for food (such as insects or crustaceans) in the mud or sand.


These birds are noticeable and very distinct with bright colours. They are medium-large waders with a black crown, chest, foreneck stripe and tail. The wings and back are light brown, while the face, remainder of the neck, and belly are white. The bill and legs of this bird are black. Its eye-catching design is complemented by its audible character, which includes a booming did-he-do-it call. The name comes from a tiny claw or spur buried in each bird’s wings.

Figure 1: The spur-winged lapwing (Vanellus spinosus) on a walk. (Photos: B. Owolabi).


The spur-winged lapwing breeds throughout an extensive range from sub-Saharan West Africa to Arabia, including the eastern Mediterranean. The species is diminishing in its northern range, although it is common throughout much of tropical Africa, where it can be found in practically any wetland habitat. The spur-winged lapwing is one of the species covered by the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds Conservation Agreement.

Figure 2: The spur-winged lapwing (Vanellus spinosus) is ready to defend her eggs. (Photos: B. Owolabi).

Feeding and breeding ecology

Spur-winged lapwing has a preference for marshes and other freshwater wetlands. It majorly feeds on insects and other invertebrates that they find on the ground around the wetland area.

It lays its eggs on the ground scrape. Laying four clutch size of blotchy yellowish eggs. The spur-winged lapwings are very territorial, they have been known to attack animals and, on rare occasions, people who go too close to the eggs or the chicks with its wing-claws.


BirdLife International (2016). Vanellus spinosusIUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22683714A92997462. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22683714A92997462.en

Borrow, N. & Demey, R. (2010) Birds of Western Africa. Christopher Helm, London.