home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Vanellus lugubris (Senegal lapwing, Lesser black-winged plover) 

Kleinswartvlerkkiewiet [Afrikaans]; iTitihoye (also applied to Crowned lapwing) [Zulu]; Ghelekela (generic term for plover) [Tsonga]; Rouwkievit [Dutch]; Vanneau terne [French]; Trauerkiebitz [German]; Abibe-d'asa-negra-pequeno [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 lugubris (Senegal lapwing, Lesser black-winged plover) Vanellus lugubris (Senegal lapwing, Lesser black-winged plover) 

Senegal lapwing. [photo Andries Steenkamp]

Senegal lapwing, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs discontinuously from Senegal through the DRC to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi to southern Africa. In southern Africa it is generally scarce in Mozambique, south-eastern Zimbabwe and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers dry, open plains with patches of bare ground and short grass, as well as savanna, open woodland, bare fields, heavily grazed grassland, airfields and pan edges.

Distribution of Senegal 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

Its movements in southern Africa are not well understood, as it is mainly resident in Zimbabwe but is a regular non-breeding summer visitor to the Kruger National Park, while it is a breeding winter visitor to northern KwaZulu-Natal. It departs from KwaZulu-Natal in the period from December-January, probably heading to Mozambique and the South-African lowveld.


It mainly eats termites, supplemented other terrestrial invertebrates, doing most of its foraging visually, plucking from the ground by day and night. It often forages along with other birds, such as Crowned, Blacksmith and African wattled lapwings, Kittlitz's and Caspian plovers, Ruff, Temminck's courser, Red-crested korhaan, egrets, ibises, starlings, barbets, longclaws, pipits and larks. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, usually loosely colonial nester, with the male defending a small territory by calling from an elevated mound and chasing intruders away.
  • Egg-laying season is from June-December, peaking from August-December.
  • It lays 3-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 27-28 days, in shifts of roughly 40 minutes (longer in colder weather).
  • The chicks leave the nest after about four hours, once their down is dry; the adults take turns in caring for the chicks and directing them to food items, so that the parent not on duty can feed. If a predator approaches the parent on guard performs a distraction display while the chicks find somewhere to hide. They eventually fledge at about 29-31 days old, sometimes only becoming fully independent at the onset of the following breeding season, a year later.


Rare in South Africa, so is susceptible to regional extinction, although not threatened globally.


  • 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.