Spot-breasted Lapwing Vanellus melanocephalus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be small, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The population is suspected to number below 10,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2021). It is therefore tentatively placed in the band of 2,500-9,999 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population trend is difficult to determine because of uncertainty over the extent of threats to the species.


Behaviour This species is not migratory, but it is likely to undertake limited local seasonal movements (large numbers appear north of Gondar, Ethiopia, during the rainy season [Urban et al. 1986]). It is usually found in solitary pairs or small flocks, and outside of the breeding season it often occurs in parties of 30-40 birds (Johnsgard 1981; del Hoyo et al. 1996), occasionally in larger flocks of more than 100 (Ficha Abbera, Bale Mountains, Ethiopia [Vivero Pol 2001]). This species breeds in April (Bale Mountains) and in August in the Shoa region (Johnsgard 1981; Urban et al. 1986; del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is diurnally active (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
This species inhabits highland grassland, moorland with giant lobelia, giant heath, Alchemilla and tussock grass, marshes, damp meadows, streams and particularly cattle pastures (often occurs around domestic stock), generally between 1,800 m and 4,100 m above sea level (Urban et al. 1986; del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Its diet is undescribed (Urban et al. 1986; del Hoyo et al. 1996).
Breeding site
Only one nest of the species has been described: it was a shallow scrape in a patch of grass and moss, situated on a small rocky island in a shallow pool surrounding by giant lobelia moorland (Johnsgard 1981; Urban et al. 1986; del Hoyo et al. 1996).


Although it is regarded as locally common, its very restricted range makes this species somewhat vulnerable (Johnsgard 1981; del Hoyo et al. 1996). It has recently been reported to be unevenly distributed in areas where it was once common, probably due to climatological changes (Vivero Pol 2001). There are no other threats recorded for this species (Vivero Pol 2001).


Text account compilers
Clark, J.

Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J. & Malpas, L.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Vanellus melanocephalus. Downloaded from on 30/06/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 30/06/2022.