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Vanellus miles novaehollandiae
Vanellus miles novaehollandiae
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Aequorlitornithes
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Charadriidae
Subfamily: Vanelllinae
Bonaparte, 1842
Genus: Vanellus
Brisson, 1760

24, see text


Afribyx Mathews, 1913
Anomalophrys Sharpe, 1896
Anitibyx Wolters, 1974
Belonopterus Reichenbach, [1852]
Chaetusia Agassiz, 1846 (unjustified emendation)
Cheltusia Verreaux, 1855 (unjustified emendation)
Chettusia Bonaparte, 1838
Chetusia Gray, 1841 (unjustified emendation)
Choetusia Blyth, 1854 (unjustified emendation)
Dorypaltus Brodkorb, 1959
Hemiparra Salvadori, 1865
Hoplopterus Bonaparte, 1831
Hoploxypterus Bonaparte, 1856
Lobibyx Heine [1890]
Lobipluria Bonaparte, 1856 (lapsus)
Lobipluvia Bonaparte, 1856
Lobivanellus Strickland 1841
Microsarcops Sharpe 1896
Ptiloscelys Bonaparte, 1856
Sarciophorus Strickland 1841
Stephanibyx Reichenbach, [1852]
Rogibyx Mathews 1913
Tylibyx Reichenbach, [1852]
Vanellochettusia Brandt 1852
Xiphidiopterus Reichenbach, [1852]
and see text

Vanellus is the genus of waders which provisionally contains all lapwings except Red-kneed Dotterel, Erythrogonys cinctus. The name "vanellus" is Latin for "little fan", vanellus being the diminutive of vannus ("fan"). The name is in reference to the sound lapwings' wings make in flight.[1]


These long-legged waders mostly have strongly patterned plumage. Although the most familiar Eurasian lapwing, Vanellus vanellus (Northern Lapwing), has a wispy crest, only two other species do so. Red or yellow facial wattles are a more typical decoration.

Only Northern, Sociable, White-tailed Lapwing, Grey-headed and Brown-chested Lapwings are truly migratory species. The Andean Lapwing moves downhill in winter.

Spur-winged, Blacksmith, River, Southern, Andean and Pied Lapwings are boldly patterned, red-eyed species with a spurred carpal (wrist) joint.

Many species have wattles which can be small (Black-headed, Spot-breasted, Red-wattled and Banded Lapwings) or large (White-headed Plover, African Wattled, Yellow-wattled, Southern, Andean, Javanese Wattled, or Masked Lapwings). The latter species are the largest of the plover family, since several exceed 30 cm (12 in).


The systematics of Vanellus have hitherto resisted clear resolution. Essentially, no major revision can be brought to agree with another, and up to 19 genera were at one time recognized for the 24 lapwings species. While it would certainly desirable to split up this large and diverse genus a bit, the morphological characters are a confusing mix of apomorphic and plesiomorphic traits in any one species, with few relationships readily apparent. Molecular data has been found to provide even less sufficient resolution, though the lapwings have not yet been as thoroughly studied under this aspect as other Charadriiformes.[2]

The only thing that can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that according to the DNA sequence data one group of 5 species seems to stand out. These are wattle-less lapwings which were separated as Anitibyx, Belonopterus, Hoplopterus (in the narrow sense) and Ptiloscelys. They are visually very dissimilar, but it is notable that their distribution forms a clean band through the tropical regions of the world except Australia; they might conceivably form a clade. The only species among them that is migratory is the Andean Lapwing (V. resplendens), which as noted above cannot be allied with the truly migratory lapwings on these grounds. However, if these were to be split off, for one thing it is almost certain that other lineages would also require separation; the new genus' name would probably be Hoplopterus, which is the longest- and most widely used alternative lapwing genus.[2]

List of species in taxonomic order[]

File:Crowned Lapwing (Vanellus coronatus) Mikumi shadow lift.jpg

Crowned lapwing in Tanzania

Prehistoric species known only from fossils are:

  • Vanellus lilloi (Middle/Late Pleistocene of Centinela del Mar, Argentina)
  • Vanellus downsi (Late Pleistocene of Rancho La Brea, USA)

The Brea Lapwing, Belonopterus downsi, was described from the upper Pleistocene asphalt deposits of Rancho La Brea, Los Angeles, California, by Campbell (2002).[3] Belonopterus downsi is similar in size to the South American species Belonopterus chilensis, but it is sufficiently distinct to be recognized as an extinct species. Although some authors lump Belonopterus with Vanellus, osteologically they are sufficiently distinct to maintain as separate genera. The Brea Lapwing was named after Dr. Theodore Downs, a prominent vertebrate paleontologist and long-time Chief Curator of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

  • Vanellus edmundi (Late Pleistocene of Talalra, Peru)

The Talara Lapwing, Belonopterus edmundi, was described by Campbell (1979) from the upper Pleistocene deposits named the Talara Tar Seeps found near Talara, Peru. Numerous osteological characters were described that distinguish this extinct species from the living South American lapwings and placed it in the genus Belonopterus, as distinct from Vanellus. The Talara Lapwing was named after Dr. A. Gordon Edmund, the individual most responsible for the paleontological collections from the Talara Tar Seeps.

These seem to be very closely related to the Southern Lapwing and all were placed in Belonopterus by the describing authors. If Viator picis, also from the Late Pleistocene of Talara, does not belong to an entirely extinct lineage, it might belong to that group too; it seems too large to be closely related to the smallish Pied Lapwing.[4]

Neither the Early Oligocene Dolicopterus[5] from Ronzon (France) nor the supposed mid-Oligocene lapwing "Vanellus" selysii of Rupelmonde (Belgium) unquestionably belong here. While their age suggests that they may indeed represent some ancient lapwings, the fossil remains have not been studied for many decades and a review is seriously overdue.[6]


  1. ^ Terres & NAS (1980): p.741
  2. ^ a b Piersma & Wiersma (1996), Thomas et al. (2004)
  3. ^ Template:Cite jstor
  4. ^ Campbell (2002)
  5. ^ Not Dolichopterus, contra Mlíkovský (2002)
  6. ^ Mlíkovský (2002)


External links[]

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