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Spur-winged lapwing

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Title: Spur-winged lapwing  
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Subject: Vanellus, Liwonde National Park, Lapwing, Akyatan Lagoon, Sibley-Monroe checklist 8
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Spur-winged lapwing

For other species called "Spur-winged Lapwing" or "Spur-winged Plover", see below.
Spur-winged lapwing
Spur-winged lapwing, Parc Forestier de Hann, Senegal
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Charadriidae
Genus: Vanellus
Species: V. spinosus
Binomial name
Vanellus spinosus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

Charadrius spinosus Linnaeus, 1758
Hoplopterus spinosus (Linnaeus, 1758)

The spur-winged lapwing or spur-winged plover (Vanellus spinosus) is a lapwing species, one of a group of largish waders in the family Charadriidae.

It is one of several species of wader supposed to be the "trochilus" bird said by Herodotus to have been involved in an unattested cleaning symbiosis with the Nile crocodile.


  • Distribution 1
  • Description 2
  • Ecology and behaviour 3
  • Other species sometimes given the same name 4
  • Supposed cleaning symbiosis 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The spur-winged lapwing breeds around the eastern Mediterranean, and in a wide band from sub-Saharan west Africa to Arabia. The Greek and Turkish breeders are migratory, but other populations are resident. The species is declining in its northern range, but is abundant in much of tropical Africa, being seen at almost any wetland habitat in its range. The spur-winged lapwing is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.


These are conspicuous and unmistakable birds. They are medium-large waders with black crown, chest, foreneck stripe and tail. The face, the rest of the neck and belly are white and the wings and back are light brown. The bill and legs are black. Its striking appearance is supplemented by its noisy nature, with a loud did-he-do-it call. The bird's common name refers to a small claw or spur hidden in each of its wings.

Ecology and behaviour

Egg - MHNT

This species has a preference for marshes and similar freshwater wetland habitats. The food of the spur-winged lapwing is insects and other invertebrates, which are picked from the ground.

It lays two blotchy yellowish eggs on a ground scrape. The spur-winged lapwing is known to sometimes use the wing-claws in an attack on animals and, rarely, people, who get too close to the birds' exposed offspring.

Other species sometimes given the same name

The "spur-winged plover" of southern Australasia is a different species, Vanellus miles; its common name has been changed to masked lapwing.

A similar-looking species, Vanellus duvaucelii, from Southeast Asia was also called "spur-winged lapwing" while V. spinosus was referred to as a "plover". Its common name has been changed to river lapwing.

Supposed cleaning symbiosis

The "spur-winged plover" was identified by Henry Scherren as the "trochilus" bird said by the Greek historian Herodotus[2] to be involved in what would now be called a cleaning symbiosis with the Nile crocodile.[3] However there is no reliable evidence that this or any other species in fact has such a relationship.[4]


  1. ^  
  2. ^ Herodotus. "The Histories of Herodotus". Book II: Euterpe. Ancient Worlds. pp. 2:68. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Macfarland, Craig G.; Reeder, W.G. (1974). "Cleaning symbiosis involving Galapagos tortoises and two species of Darwin's finches". Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 34 (5): 464–483.  

External links

  • Vanellus spinosusBirdLife species factsheet for
  • Vanellus spinosus on Avibase
  • Spur-winged lapwing videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
  • Spur-winged lapwing photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)
  • Vanellus spinosusInteractive range map of at IUCN Red List maps
  • Audio recordings of Spur-winged lapwing on Xeno-canto.
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