Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus


Justification of Red List Category
This species is suspected to be decreasing at a moderately rapid rate.  It is therefore classified as Near Threatened.  Should new information suggest these declines are occurring more rapidly it would warrant uplisting; it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criteria A2abce+3bce+4abce.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c. 5,600,000-10,500,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2012).  The European population is estimated at 1,590,000-2,580,000 pairs, which equates to 3,190,000-5,170,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2015).  In Europe, trends since 1980 show that populations have undergone a moderate decline (p<0.01), based on provisional data for 21 countries from the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (EBCC/RSPB/BirdLife/Statistics Netherlands; P. Vorisek in litt. 2008); this is supported by recent data from Europe, suggesting the European population is decreasing by 30-49% in 27 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015).  A strong decline is also reported for the European and western Asian population between 1988 and 2012, based on annual mid-winter counts (Nagy et al. 2014).  No recent trend data is available for the two other flyway populations (breeding in southern Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northern China and wintering in southern and eastern Asia [Wetlands International 2015]).

Distribution and population

The species breeds from Europe, Turkey and north-west Iran through western Russia and Kazakhstan to southern and eastern Siberia, Mongolia and northern China.  It winters from western Europe, the east Atlantic islands and North Africa through the Mediterranean, Middle East and Iran across northern India to south-east China, the Korean peninsula and southern Japan (Wiersma and Sharpe 2015).


The species shows a preference for breeding on wet natural grasslands (Trolliet 2003), meadows and hay meadows (del Hoyo et al. 1996) with short swards (Hayman et al. 1986, Devereux et al. 2004) and patches of bare soil (Johnsgard 1981) at low altitudes (Hayman et al. 1986) (less than 1,000 m) (Snow and Perrins 1998).  It will also breed on grassy moors, swampy heaths, bogs and arable fields (Johnsgard 1981, del Hoyo et al. 1996).  The nest is a shallow scrape in short grass vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1996).  During the winter the species utilises large open pastures for roosting (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and forages on damp grassland, irrigated land (Urban et al. 1986), stubble and ploughed fields (del Hoyo et al. 1996), riverbanks, lake shores, fresh and saline marshes, drainage ditches, estuaries and mudflats (Africa) (Urban et al. 1986).  Its diet consists of adult and larval insects (e.g. beetles, ants, Diptera, crickets, grasshoppers, dragonflies, mayflies, cicadas and Lepidoptera), spiders, snails, earthworms, frogs, small fish (Africa) and seeds or other plant material (Africa) (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996).  Most populations of this species are fully migratory and travel on a broad front out of Europe although some breeding populations in more temperate regions are sedentary (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998).  The species breeds from April to July (Hayman et al. 1986) in solitary pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1996) although pairs may also nest close together in optimal habitat (Johnsgard 1981, Trolliet 2003).


This species suffered past declines as a result of land-use intensification, wetland drainage and egg collecting (del Hoyo et al. 1996).  Land-use intensification remains a problem: today it is threatened by reduced breeding productivity as a result of intensifying and changing agricultural practices (del Hoyo et al. 1996), especially the improvement of grasslands (e.g. by drainage, application of inorganic fertilizers and reseeding) (Baldi et al. 2005), increased growing of winter-crops (see Eggers et al. 2011), and loss of field margins and semi-natural habitat.  Important migratory stop-over habitats for this species on the Baltic Sea coastline are threatened by petroleum pollution, wetland drainage for irrigation, land abandonment and changing land management practices leading to scrub overgrowth (Grishanov 2006).  Clutch destruction may also occur during spring cultivation (using machinery) on arable fields (del Hoyo et al. 1996).  The species is susceptible to avian botulism so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the disease (Hubalek et al. 2005), and may suffer from predation and nest predation by native and introduced predators (e.g. European Hedgehog Erinaceus europeaus on some islands [Jackson 2001], corvids, herons, gulls, foxes [M. Sorrenti in litt. 2016]).  The species is hunted for commercial use (to be sold as food) and for recreational purposes in Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006), and is hunted in France, Greece, Italy and Spain (Trolliet 2003).

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex II.  Bern Convention Annex III.  Management of habitat for this species occurs in several European countries and agro-environment schemes are in place in France, the Netherlands and the U.K. (Petersen 2009) although they have been shown to not always be effective (Breeuwer et al. 2009).  A European management plan was published in 2009 (Petersen 2009), and a management plan for meadow birds is underway (M. Sorrenti in litt. 2016).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Ensure incentives are in place for landowners to restore and manage suitable habitat as well as reduce pesticide use.  Continue research to find the most appropriate land management practices fro this, and other species (e.g. Chiron et al. 2010, Eggers et al. 2011, Peach et al. 2011, MacDonald et al. 2012).  Reduce hunting pressure, record reliable bag statistics and create awareness campaigns, targeted at hunters, about the decline of this species.  Develop management schemes to reduce predation as well as monitoring and research programmes to inform conservation measures (Petersen 2009).


28-31 cm.  Metallic glossy green upperparts with blackish crest and bronze scapulars.  Very broad wings.  Non-breeding adult with buff face, white chin and throat, upperwing-coverts and scapulars have buff fringes.  Juvenile similar to non-breeding adult (Wiersma and Sharp 2015).


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Westrip, J., Wheatley, H., Ieronymidou, C., Ashpole, J, Harding, M., Ekstrom, J., Burfield, I., Malpas, L., Wright, L, Pople, R., Martin, R

Sorrenti, M., Petkov, N., Perlman, Y., Singh, R.K.B., Trolliet, B., Fefelov, I., Verkuil, Y., Vogrin, M., Stroud, D., Mischenko, A., Choudhury, U., Chan, S., Raudonikis, L.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Vanellus vanellus. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/northern-lapwing-vanellus-vanellus on 03/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 03/06/2023.