Charadriidae – Plovers, Lapwings & Dotterels

Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus ©Craig Brelsford Website

The Charadriidae bird family includes the plovers, dotterels, and lapwings, about 66 species in all.

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, their 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, very little sexual dimorphism occurs between sexes. They range in size from the Collared Plover, at 26 grams and 14cm, to the Masked Lapwing, at 368 grams and 35cm. 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. 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.

The vast majority of Charadriidae have a socially monogamous mating system. Some, such as Northern Lapwings, are polygynyous, others, such as Mountain Plovers have a rapid multiple-clutch system that can be accompanied by sequential polyandry. In Eurasian Dotterels, females compete for males and males provide all parental care. While breeding, they defend their territories with highly visible aerial displays.

They lay two to four eggs into the nest, which is usually a shallow scrape in the open ground, and incubate the clutch for 21 to 30 days. In species where both parents incubate the eggs, females and males vary in the way they share their incubation duties, both within and between species. In some pairs, parents exchange on the nest in the morning and in the evening so that their incubation rhythm follows a 24-hour day, in others females and males exchange up to 20 times a day.

They 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. The chicks are precocial; their parents do not feed them.

There are according to the IOC, 66 extant dotterels, plovers, lapwings etc. all members of the Charadriidae family; they are:

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Long-toed Lapwing Vanellus crassirostris
Blacksmith Lapwing Vanellus armatus
Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus
River Lapwing Vanellus duvaucelii
Black-headed Lapwing Vanellus tectus
Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus malabaricus
White-crowned Lapwing Vanellus albiceps
Senegal Lapwing Vanellus lugubris
Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus melanopterus
Crowned Lapwing Vanellus coronatus
African Wattled Lapwing Vanellus senegallus
Spot-breasted Lapwing Vanellus melanocephalus
Brown-chested Lapwing Vanellus superciliosus
Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus
Banded Lapwing Vanellus tricolor
Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles
Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius
White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus
Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis
Andean Lapwing Vanellus resplendens

Red-kneed Dotterel Erythrogonys cinctus

Inland Dotterel Peltohyas australis

Wrybill Anarhynchus frontalis

European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola

New Zealand Plover Charadrius obscurus
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Long-billed Plover Charadrius placidus
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Wilson’s Plover Charadrius wilsonia
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
Piping Plover Charadrius melodus
Madagascan Plover Charadrius thoracicus
Kittlitz’s Plover Charadrius pecuarius
St. Helena Plover Charadrius sanctaehelenae
Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris
Forbes’s Plover Charadrius forbesi
White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus
Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus
Red-capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus
Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii
Chestnut-banded Plover Charadrius pallidus
Collared Plover Charadrius collaris
Puna Plover Charadrius alticola
Two-banded Plover Charadrius falklandicus
Double-banded Plover Charadrius bicinctus
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus
Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus
Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus
Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus
Rufous-chested Plover Charadrius modestus
Mountain Plover Charadrius montanus

Hooded Dotterel Thinornis cucullatus
Shore Dotterel Thinornis novaeseelandiae

Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops

Tawny-throated Dotterel Oreopholus ruficollis

Diademed Sandpiper-Plover Phegornis mitchellii

Pied Plover Hoploxypterus cayanus

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 66

Useful Reading
  • Geographical Variation in Waders

    by Meinte Engelmoer and Cees S Roselaar331 pages, figs, tabs, maps. Kluwer Academic Publishers ISBN: 0792350200 Buy this book from
  • Shorebirds

    (WorldLife Library) by Des Thimpson, Ingvar Byrkjedal 2001 ISBN: 1841070750 Buy this book from
  • Shorebirds

    An Identification Guide to the Waders of the World by Pter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater - Helm 1986 ISBN: 0713635096 Buy this book from
  • Shorebirds of North America - The Photographic guide

    by Dennis Paulson Christopher Helm 2005. Price ?24.99p ISBN: 071367377X Buy this book from
  • Tundra Plovers

    - The Eurasian, Pacific and American Golden Plovers and Grey Plover by Ingvar Byrkjedal and Des Thompson Series: POYSER MONOGRAPHS 422 pages, 40 photos, illus, figs, tabs, maps. T & AD Poyser Ltd (A & C Black) 1998 ISBN: 0856611093 Buy this book from
  • Waders of Europe, Asia & North America

    by Stephen Message & Don Taylor published by Christopher Helm 2006 price ?24.99p See Fatbirder Review ISBN: 071365290X Buy this book from
  • Australasia Wader Study Group

    The Australasian Wader Studies Group was formed in 1981 as a special interest group of Birds Australia. The group is an non-government organisation dedicated to studying waders (otherwise known as shorebirds) throughout the East-Asian Australasian Flyway. There are about 330 members, of which 90 are from Asia
  • International Wader Study Group

    The International Wader Study Group (IWSG) is an association of amateurs and professionals from all parts of the world interested in Charadrii (waders or shorebirds). Membership of the WSG is currently over 650 worldwide. Members can be found in over 50 countries around the world, including all European countries and the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australasia. The interests of the group have diversified from its original focus from ringing and migration-related studies to embrace all aspects of wader biology.
  • Snowy Plover Project

    The snowy plover is a small awkward-looking shore bird that lives on the leading edge of North America, eating small creatures from the seafoam
  • Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

    WHSRN is a voluntary, non-regulatory coalition of over 200 private and public organizations in seven countries working together to study and conserve shorebirds throughout their habitats. Participation in WHSRN provides the site with international recognition as a major host for shorebirds. OUR MISSION: The conservation, restoration, and management of critical shorebird habitats throughout the Americas
  • Western Atlantic Shorebird Association

    The first research project to be part of WASA is the International Banding Project which is being led by Professor Allan Baker, Canada and Patricia M. Gonz
Forums & Mailing Lists
Other Links
  • The New Shorebirds Handbook Project

    This is a blog of The New Shorebirds Handbook Project which aims to bring together the current knowledge on shorebird science, conservation and a little bit more. By following the blog, readers could insight into the progress and important milestones of the project and the recent news on the world of waders and a bit more of us, the authors….
  • Wader Quest

    It is vital to to take action to prevent the Spoon-billed Sandpiper from becoming extinct. Wader Quest is an attempt to raise money and awareness to the plight of, not just these tiny wanderers but of wader species worldwide…

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