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Vanellus crassirostris (Long-toed lapwing, Long-toed plover) 

Witvlerkkiewiet [Afrikaans]; Langteenkievit [Dutch]; Vanneau ailes blanches [French]; Langzehenkiebitz [German]; Abibe-de-faces-brancas [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 crassirostris (Long-toed lapwing, Long-toed plover)  Vanellus crassirostris (Long-toed lapwing, Long-toed plover)

Long-toed lapwing. [photo Peter Steyn ]

Long-toed lapwing. [photo Stephen Davis ]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from southern Sudan through eastern DRC, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is localised and generally uncommon in northern Zimbabwe, central Mozambique, the Caprivi Strip (Namibia) and northern Botswana. It generally prefers emergent and floating vegetation in swamps, flood plains, ox-bow lakes and dams as well as short grassland near water, especially with lilies (Nymphaea), Kariba weed (Salvinia molesta), Bulrush (Typha capensis), ludwigias (Ludwigia), sedges (Cyperus), Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), swamp cut-grasses (Leersia), wild rice (Oryza), Couch panicum (Panicum repens), Hippo grass (Vossia cuspidata), duck weed (Wolffia) and water ferns (Azolla). In the dry season it occasionally moves to exposed mudflats and gravelly rivers.

Distribution of Long-toed 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).

Movements and migrations

Resident and locally nomadic, moving in response to a changing water level.


It mainly eats aquatic insects, doing most of its foraging visually, plucking prey from the surface of vegetation or mud. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
  • Seeds


  • Hardly studied in southern Africa, it is a monogamous, territorial solitary nester, defending a small territory against Long-toed lapwings and other bird species.
  • The nest is either a floating platform of vegetation in a swamp or a shallow scrape in the ground close to water, often surrounded by a moat of water which dries out after the eggs hatch.
  • Egg-laying season starts at or just after peak flooding, lasting from April-October (mainly July-September).
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 27 days. After hatching the chicks stay in the nest overnight and are encouraged by their parents to swim across the nest moat the following day. They remain close to their parents for many weeks, eventually fledging at about two months old.


Not threatened, as it is naturally rare due to its specialised habitat requirements and has benefited from the spread of alien weeds, such as Kariba weed (Salvinia molesta).


  • 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.