Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely 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 appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not 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 global population is estimated at 130,000-800,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 1,100-1,600 pairs, which equates to 2,100-3,200 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be increasing as ongoing habitat degradation is creating new areas of suitable habitat (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The European population is estimated to be stable (BirdLife International 2015).

Distribution and population

The species has a predominately African distribution, however its breeding range extends into the east Mediterranean (Wiersma and Kirwan 2012), where it is found in Cyprus and Turkey, as well as Greece and Macedonia although its range has retracted in this area and it no longer breeds in Macedonia (Snow and Perrins 1998).


Behaviour African breeding populations are largely sedentary (Hayman et al. 1986) but may make irregular local movements (e.g. to drier areas during the rains) although it does not appear to be very sensitive to seasonal changes in water-level (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeders in the eastern Mediterranean region are fully migratory however and disperse south to Africa for the winter (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species nests from March to September in West Africa and in the eastern Mediterranean region (Hayman et al. 1986), the timing of breeding varying geographically elsewhere (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It nests in solitary pairs or loose colonies and outside of the breeding season flocks of up to 15 (occasionally up to 200) individuals may occur (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat The species frequents dry ground (del Hoyo et al. 1996) close to fresh or saline (Hayman et al. 1986)pools, lakes, rivers, lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1996) or marshes (Hayman et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996) as well as burnt grassland, cultivated, flooded or irrigated fields (Hayman et al. 1986) (e.g. rice-paddies) (del Hoyo et al. 1996), saltflats by alkaline lakes (Urban et al. 1986), mudflats, sandflats, beaches, dunes (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and coastal saltpans (Hayman et al. 1986). Diet Its diet consists predominantly of adult and larval insects (e.g. beetles, grasshoppers, Diptera, midges, termites and ants) (del Hoyo et al. 1996) as well as spiders (del Hoyo et al. 1996), centipedes, millipedes (Urban et al. 1986) and occasionally crustaceans, molluscs, small lizards, tadpoles, adult frogs, fish and seeds (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is placed in a shallow natural depressions in rock (del Hoyo et al. 1996) or is a shallow scrape on dry bare ground (del Hoyo et al. 1996) or on mudflats (Urban et al. 1986).


The species has suffered from past declines as a result of the loss of natural and semi-natural saltmarsh habitats (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Utilisation The species is locally exposed to hunting pressures (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex II. Bern Convention Appendix II. There are no known current conservation measures for this species within its European range.

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Ensure adequate protection and expansion of its steppe habitat. Legislation on hunting should be developed and enforced. Studies to develop understanding of its ecology, threats and their impact should be undertaken.


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Vanellus spinosus. Downloaded from on 22/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2021.