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Vanellus albiceps (White-crowned lapwing, White-crowned plover) 

Witkopkiewiet [Afrikaans]; Witkruinkievit [Dutch]; Vanneau à tête blanche [French]; Langspornkiebitz [German]; Abibe-de-coroa-branca [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Charadriidae > Genus: Vanellus

Vanellus albiceps (White-crowned lapwing, White-crowned plover) 

White-crowned lapwing, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

White-crowned lapwing, Botswana. [photo Mike Grimes ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to the Afrotropics, from Senegal to the Central African Republic south to northern Angola, with a separate population in Tanzania, Zambia and southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is uncommon in north-western and south-western Zimbabwe, north-eastern South Africa, central and northern Mozambique, northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip (Namibia). It generally prefers sand and mudbanks along large rivers, lakes and dams; during floods it often moves to streams, lagoons and pans.

Distribution of White-crowned lapwing in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Mostly sedentary in southern Africa, although it moves away from rivers when they flood or dry up, while juveniles disperse widely after becoming independent.


It mainly eats insects and aquatic invertebrates, doing most of its foraging close to the water, locating prey visually before plucking them from the surface. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, defending a linear territory along the river bed.
  • The nest is a shallow scrape in a damp sandbank, occasionally lined with small sticks and pebbles. It is typically placed in the open, occasionally adjacent to a driftwood or vegetation.
  • Egg-laying season is from July-November, peaking from August-October.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for at least 26 days, although they are often left unattended (sometimes in the hottest part of the day).
  • The chicks can feed themselves within 24 hours of hatching and are cared for by both parents, who become increasingly aggressive towards intruders.


Near-threatened in South Africa, largely due to decreased river flow, which is probably caused by afforestation, invasive plants and obstruction by man-made structures (such as dams).


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.