Javan Lapwing Vanellus macropterus


Justification of Red List category
This conspicuous species has not been recorded since 1939, and it is likely to have declined severely owing to extensive habitat degradation and destruction, probably compounded by significant hunting pressure. Surveys carried out since 1949 have been unsuccessful in recording any individuals, though unconfirmed reports from local people exist. A set of papers published in 2017 (Akcakaya et al. 2017, Keith et al. 2017, Thompson et al. 2017) laid out methods for quantitatively estimating a species’s probability of extinction based on parameters associated with threats, in addition to records and surveys. Based on the application of these methods (Butchart et al. 2018), this species is regarded as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct).

Population justification
This species has not been recorded since 1939. Surveys carried out since 1949 have been unsuccessful in recording any individuals, though unconfirmed reports from local people exist. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny.

Trend justification
Trends are unknown, but any remaining population, if it exists, is likely to be declining owing to human disturbance and conversion of habitat to aquaculture and agricultural land, and perhaps hunting.

Distribution and population

Vanellus macropterus is known with certainty only from the island of Java, Indonesia, where it inhabited marshes and river deltas in the west (on the north coast) and the east (on the south coast). A specimen and two eggs collected in the 19th century may have derived from Sumatra, and there is an unsubstantiated claim that it occurred on Timor (at least three specimens). It was described as local and uncommon, apparently only ever encountered in scattered pairs, and has not been recorded since 1940. The fact that it was reputedly impossible to overlook suggests very strongly that it is no longer present at any site studied in recent decades by ornithologists. A series of surveys carried out between 2001 and 2012 have failed to locate any individuals, but there are several unconfirmed reports from local people in the Bekasi and Lumajuang districts (Iqbal et al. 2013). Rediscovery of the species in areas with historic records is considered unlikely (Iqbal et al. 2013). However, there are potentially suitable areas that have not been surveyed and observations from the 1920s suggest that its habitat requirements may have been less restricted than previously thought, perhaps providing some further hope for its continued existence (van Balen and Nijman 2007). Wet grassland on Belitung Island is a possible location requiring searches (Iqbal et al. 2013).


Historically, it inhabited wide, steppe-like marshes in river deltas, keeping to the least flooded areas during the rainy season. It also frequented damp pastures (including those grazed by buffalo) bordering marshes thickly covered in sedges and low aquatic vegetation, open areas near freshwater ponds, and was also found in agricultural fields and rice-paddies (van Balen and Nijman 2007). It occurred in isolated pairs, often in rather large areas, suggesting that it must have been a naturally low-density species. Breeding season was May to June in West Java (Wiersma and Kirwan 2013). It was probably resident, although it may have undergone local movements or migration, as suggested by its erratic and off-shore occurrences (van Balen and Nijman 2007). Its diet is thought to have consisted of freshwater invertebrates and plant seeds (Wiersma and Kirwan 2013).


Its decline has been attributed to 'merciless' hunting and trapping. However, it seems far more likely that high levels of human disturbance and conversion of its habitat to aquaculture and agricultural land were the principal agents. The fact that it may have been a naturally low-density species could have exacerbated its susceptibility to extinction in the face of large-scale habitat loss and disturbance.

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway

The species has been protected under Indonesian law since 1978, albeit probably rather too late to be of any influence. Several recent searches of historic and potential sites for this species have all drawn a blank. One of the most recent searches was carried out at Muara Gembong in West Java, where interviews with local people produced strong evidence that the species could still be present (N. Brickle in litt. 2011). Searches took place at Belitung Island, southern Sumatra, during 2012 (M. Iqbal in litt. 2012).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed

Coastal wetlands and grasslands should continue to be searched on Java and elsewhere in the Greater Sundas. Initiate immediate habitat protection in the event of its rediscovery.


27-29 cm. Large, long-legged wader. Generally dark, with large yellow or white wattles. Deep black head, belly-patch and flight feathers, carpal joint with curved black spurs. Dark brown upperparts, breast and upper belly. White uppertail-coverts and vent. Orange or yellow legs. Similar spp. Masked Lapwing V. miles could conceivably occur as a vagrant, easily differentiated by conspicuous white underparts and reddish legs. Voice Distinctive, loud call transcribed "beberak".


Text account compilers
Smith, D., Bird, J., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Tobias, J., Benstead, P., Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Pilgrim, J.

Brickle, N., Iqbal, M., Rudyanto, P.R. & van Balen, B.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Vanellus macropterus. Downloaded from on 03/10/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/10/2023.