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Vanellus armatus (Blacksmith lapwing, Blacksmith plover) 

Bontkiewiet [Afrikaans]; iNdudumela [Zulu]; Runkerenkere (generic term for lapwing) [Kwangali]; Mo-otla-tšepe [South Sotho]; Ghelekela (generic term for plover) [Tsonga]; Lethulatshipi [Tswana]; Smidsplevier [Dutch]; Vanneau armé [French]; Waffenkiebitz, Schmiedekiebitz [German]; Abibe-preto-e-branco [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 armatus (Blacksmith lapwing, Blacksmith plover)  Vanellus armatus (Blacksmith lapwing, Blacksmith plover) 

Blacksmith lapwing, Strandfontein Sewerage Works, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Blacksmith lapwing, Paarl Bird Sanctuary, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, occurring from Kenya through Tanzania to southern DRC, Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is common in Namibia, northern Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa and western Mozambique. It generally prefers moist, short grassland, mudflats around dams, sewage pans, lakes, rivers, estuaries, salt pans, road verges, sports fields, airports and heavily grazed areas.

Distribution of Blacksmith 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.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

It can be sedentary, nomadic or migratory depending on environmental conditions, as for example in particularly dry years it often moves from arid regions to areas with more rainfall, vice versa in high rainfall years. It is mainly sedentary when breeding, while it is often nomadic in the non-breeding season.


It eats aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, doing most of its foraging early and late in the day, standing still while intently scanning for prey; once spotted it dashes forward to pluck the animal from the surface of the ground or water. It also searches for insect larvae in dung, sometimes trembling its foot in shallow water to attract prey to the surface. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • molluscs
    • worms
    • crustaceans
    • insects
  • Vertebrates


  • Usually a monogamous, territorial solitary nester, although polygyny is rarely recorded.
  • The nest (see image below) is a simple scrape or hoofprint in the ground, usually lined with vegetation, stones and mud flakes, often placed close to water. If the ground is wet the nest is a more substantial mound, to reduce the risk of flooding destroying the eggs.
Vanellus armatus (Blacksmith lapwing, Blacksmith plover) Vanellus armatus (Blacksmith lapwing, Blacksmith plover) 
Vanellus armatus (Blacksmith lapwing, Blacksmith plover) 

Blacksmith lapwing nest with eggs, Machadadorp, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

Top right: Blacksmith lapwing. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

Bottom right: Blacksmith lapwing chick, Paarl Bird Sanctuary, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from July-October.
  • It lays 1-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 26-33 days, typically in shifts of about 20-80 minutes.
  • The chicks leave the nest within hours of hatching, after which they remain within 10 metres of their parents, so that they can warn their young when predators approach. As times goes by they gradually range further away from the adults, fledging at about 40 days old and usually becoming fully independent about a month later.


Not threatened, in facts its range and population dramatically increased in the 1900s.


  • 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.