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Vanellus melanopterus (Black-winged lapwing, Black-winged plover) 

Grootswartvlerkkiewiet [Afrikaans]; Igxiya (also applied to Crowned lapwing) [Xhosa]; iHoye, iTitihoye [Zulu]; Zwartvleugelkievit [Dutch]; Vanneau à ailes noires [French]; Schwarzflügelkiebitz [German]; Abibe-d'asa-negra [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 melanopterus (Black-winged lapwing, Black-winged plover)  Vanellus melanopterus (Black-winged lapwing, Black-winged plover) 

Black-winged lapwing, South Africa. [photo Peet van Schalkwyk ©, see also scienceanimations.com]

Black-winged lapwing, Ozambeni, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in the highland grassland of Ethiopia, southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, with a separate population in southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is uncommon to locally common from Mpumalanga south though Swaziland to KwaZulu-Natal, extending down the coast through the Eastern Cape to the far east of the Western Cape. It generally prefers highland plateaux and slopes, meadows, fallow fields, pastures, coastal flats and areas of mown grass, such as golf courses.

Distribution of Black-winged 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

Altitudinal migrant, breeding at highland inland areas from late August-November, after which it heads down to the coast until the following breeding season.


It mainly eats termites (which form approximately 84-90% of its diet), often using the typical foraging technique of plovers, running, stopping, then searching for prey before repeating the process. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary or loosely colonial nester, sometimes breeding along with Spotted thick-knees and Crowned lapwings. The male defends a small territory surrounding the nest, calling from an elevated mound and repelling intruders by flicking its tail downward and bobbing its whole body back and forth.
  • The nest is a scrape or depression in the ground, lined with roots, small stones and dried dung and typically placed among grass or in newly ploughed land.
  • Egg-laying season is from May-November, peaking from August-September.
  • It lays 1-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes by day but only the female at night, for about 30-31 days.
  • The chicks remain in the nest for up to 24 hours while their down dries, after which they follow their parents away, who direct them to food for them to eat. They fledge at about 29-31 days old, remaining with the adults for about a year before leaving at the onset of the following breeding season.


Not threatened, since its specialised habitat requirements are fulfilled by veld-burning, heavy grazing and mowing.


  • 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.