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.

Species List

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

Species Links
  • American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica

    Species Account
    Images, description, full species account…
  • American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica

    Cornell Species Account
    A large shorebird of pastures, open ground, and mudflats, the American Golden-Plover makes one of the longest migratory journeys of any shorebird.
  • American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica

    HBW Species Account
  • American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica

    IUCN Species Status
  • Collared Plover Charadrius collaris

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Charadrius collaris Vieillot, 1818, Paraguay. Shorter-winged population occurring from Mexico to N Brazil is sometimes separated as a subspecies, gracilis. Monotypic.
  • Collared Plover Charadrius collaris

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Collared Plover Charadrius collaris

    Species Account
    The collared plover (Charadrius collaris) is a small shorebird in the plover family, Charadriidae. It lives along coasts and riverbanks of the tropical to temperate Americas, from central Mexico south to Chile and Argentina.
  • Collared Plover Charadrius collaris

    Cornell Species Account
    Collared Plover is a common tropical and subtropical shorebird distributed broadly from Mexico south into the northern half of South America.
  • European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria

    IUCN Species Status
  • European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria

    Species Account
    The European golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria), also known as the Eurasian golden plover or just the golden plover within Europe, is a largish plover.
  • European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria

    RSPB Species Account
    A medium-sized plover with a distinctive gold and black summer plumage. In winter the black in replaced by buff and white.
  • European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Charadrius apricarius Linnaeus, 1758, Lapland. Two subspecies normally recognized.
  • Killdeer Charadrius vociferus

    HBW Species Account
  • Killdeer Charadrius vociferus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Killdeer Charadrius vociferus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Killdeer Charadrius vociferus

    Species Account
    The killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is a medium-sized plover. The genus name Charadrius is a Late Latin word for a yellowish bird mentioned in the fourth-century Vulgate. It derives from Ancient Greek kharadrios a bird found in ravines and river valleys (kharadra, "ravine").
  • Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

    Species Account
    The little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius) is a small plover. The genus name Charadrius is a Late Latin word for a yellowish bird mentioned in the fourth-century Vulgate.
  • Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Charadrius dubius Scopoli, 1786, Luzon, Philippines. Three subspecies recognized.
  • Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

    IUCN Species Status
  • Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus

    Article
    Photo Plus discussion of this East Asian plover.
  • Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Charadrius fulvus J. F. Gmelin, 1789, Tahiti. Monotypic.
  • Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva

    IUCN Species Status
  • Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva

    Species Account
    The Pacific golden plover (Pluvialis fulva) is a medium-sized plover. The genus name is Latin and means relating to rain, from pluvia, "rain". It was believed that golden plovers flocked when rain was imminent. The species name fulva is Latin and refers to a tawny colour
  • Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva

    Cornell Species Account
    A beautiful shorebird, the Pacific Golden-Plover breeds in western Alaska and Siberia and winters on islands across the Pacific Ocean, through southeast Asia, to northeastern Africa
  • Piping Plover Charadrius melodus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Piping Plover Charadrius melodus

    Species Account
    The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small sand-colored, sparrow-sized shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America. The adult has yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead from eye to eye, and a black stripe running along the breast line.
  • Piping Plover Charadrius melodus

    BirdLife Species Account
    BirdLife species profile
  • Piping Plover Charadrius melodus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Piping Plover Charadrius melodus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Charadrius melodus Ord, 1824, Great Egg Harbor, New Jersey, USA. Two subspecies tentatively recognized.
  • Wilson's Plover Charadrius wilsonia

    HBW Species Account
    Charadrius wilsonia Ord, 1814, shore of Cape May, New Jersey, USA. Four subspecies recognized.
  • Wilson's Plover Charadrius wilsonia

    IUCN Species Status
  • Wilson's Plover Charadrius wilsonia

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Wilson's Plover Charadrius wilsonia

    Species Account
    The Wilson's plover (Charadrius wilsonia) is a small plover.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 66

Useful Reading
  • Geographical Variation in Waders

    | By Meinte Engelmoer & Cees S Roselaar | Kluwer Academic Publishers | 1998 | Hardback | 331 pages, figures, tabs, maps | ISBN: 9780792350200 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Shorebirds

    | (An Identification Guide to the Waders of the World) | by Peter Hayman, John Marchant & Tony Prater | Christopher Helm | 1991 | Hardback | 416 pages, 88 colour photos, 214 maps, line drawings | ISBN: 9780713635096 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Shorebirds

    | By Des Thimpson & Ingvar Byrkjedal | Colin Baxter Photography |2001 | paperback | 72 pages, Colour photos | ISBN: 9781841070759 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Shorebirds of North America - The Photographic guide

    | (The photographic Guide | by Dennis Paulson | Christopher Helm | 2005 | Paperback | 361 pages, Colour photos | ISBN: 9780713673777 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Tundra Plovers

    | (The Eurasian, Pacific and American Golden Plovers and Grey Plover | by Ingvar Byrkjedal & Des Thompson | T & AD Poyser Ltd (A & C Black) | 2002 | Hardback | 422 pages, 40 photos, illustrations, figures, tables, maps | ISBN: 9780856611094 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Waders of Europe, Asia & North America

    | By Stephen Message & Don Taylor | Christopher Helm 2005 | Paperback | 224 pages, 80 plates with colour illustrations | ISBN: 9780713652901 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Organisations
  • Australasia Wader Study Group

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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

    Blog
    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

    Website
    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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