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Charadriidae diversity art
Art showing various species of plovers as well as Ruddy Turnstone.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Aequorlitornithes
Order: Charadriiformes
Suborder: Charadrii
Family: Charadriidae
Vigors, 1825
File:Vanellus miles novaehollandiae.png

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles novaehollandiae)

The bird family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels, and lapwings, about 63 species in all.

Charadriidae phylogeny





They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings, but most species of lapwing may have more rounded wings. Their bill are usually straight (except for the Wrybill) and short, their toes are short, hind toe could be reduced or absent, depending on species. Most Charadriidae also have relatively short tails, the Killdeer is the exception. In most genera, the sexes are similar, very little sexual dimorphism occurs between sexes. They range in size from the Collared Plover, at 26 grams and 14 cm (5.5 inches), to the Masked Lapwing, at 368 grams (13 oz) and 35 cm (14 inches).

Sexual differences are slight, with males usually brighter than females. They typically moult their contour/body feathers in spring.[1]


Taxonomy is based on Dos Remedios et al.[2]


The Rufous-chested Dotterel (or Plover) turns out to be sister to the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover and is placed in a new genus Zonibyx. Forbes Plover is sister to the Hooded Dotterel, Thinornis cucullatus (sometimes called rubricollis). The Three-banded Plover is basal to both Thinornis and the now-restricted Charadrius The genus Thinornis has grown by absorbing Elseyornis and adding the Little Ringed Plover (from Charadrius).[2]
















Distribution and habitat[]

They are distributed through open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water, although there are some exceptions: the Inland Dotterel, for example, prefers stony ground in the deserts of central and western Australia.[3]


Diet and feeding[]

They hunt by sight, rather than by feel as longer-billed waders like snipe do. Foods eaten include aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates such as insects, worms, molluscs and crustaceans depending on habitat, and are usually obtained by a run-and-pause technique, rather than the steady probing of some other wader groups. They also feed on plant material.


While breeding, they defend their territories with highly visible aerial displays.[3]. Charadriidae are protective over their eggs and offspring. The parents protect their young by uttering an alarm call, performing distraction display and they may even attack the predator or intruder. Both parents take care of their offspring. The chicks are precocial; their parents do not feed them. Most species are monogamous, while less are polygamous.

Most members of the family are known as plovers, lapwings or dotterels. These were rather vague terms which were not applied with any great consistency in the past. In general, larger species have often been called lapwings, smaller species plovers or dotterels and there are in fact two clear taxonomic sub-groups: most lapwings belong to the subfamily Vanellinae, most plovers and dotterels to Charadriinae or Anarhynchinae.

The trend in recent years has been to rationalise the common names of the Charadriidae. For example, the large and very common Australian bird traditionally known as the ‘Spur-winged Plover’, is now the Masked Lapwing; the former ‘Sociable Plover’ is now the Sociable Lapwing.


  1. ^ Dunn, Jon L. and Alderfer, Jonathan (2011). National Geographic Completely Birds of North America. National Geographic Society. ISBN 9781426213731. 
  2. ^ a b Dos Remedios, N., C. Küpper, P.L.M. Lee, T. Burke, and T. Székely (2015), North or South? Phylogenetic and biogeographic origins of a globally distributed avian clade, Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 89, 151-159
  3. ^ a b Harrison, Colin J.O. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. p. 105. ISBN 1-85391-186-0. 
  • 'Gordon Lindsay Maclean; 1993; Robert's Birds of Southern Africa; Sixth Edition; John Voelcker Bird Book Fund'

p. 217

External links[]

Sterna diversity This article is part of Project Bird Families, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each bird family, including made-up families.
Hemipus picatus This article is part of Project Bird Taxonomy, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on every order, family and other taxonomic rank related to birds.
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