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Species Guide
A photo of a Blacksmith Lapwing (Vanellus armatus)
Blacksmith Lapwing

Blacksmith Lapwing

Vanellus armatus

The Blacksmith Lapwing, known scientifically as Vanellus armatus, is a striking bird with a bold pattern of black, grey, and white, which may serve as a warning to predators. Its red eyes are a distinctive feature, shared with only four other lapwing species across the globe. Adorning the wrist joint is a carpal spur, a sharp black protrusion used in defense of their young, with aggressive aerial dives often aimed at the heads of intruders.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Blacksmith Lapwing, look for its red eyes and the contrasting pied plumage. The bill and portions of the legs are black, with the legs sometimes showing a white-grey mottling. The sexes appear similar, though females tend to be slightly larger and heavier.


This lapwing species is commonly found in association with wetlands of varying sizes, from expansive marshes to the smallest damp areas caused by spilling water troughs. In South Africa, they are particularly abundant in mesic grassland regions.


The Blacksmith Lapwing is a common sight from Kenya through central Tanzania to southern and southwestern Africa. They have expanded their range in the 20th century, notably establishing a presence in the western Cape region of South Africa since the 1930s.


Partially migratory, the Blacksmith Lapwing does not engage in large-scale, regular migrations. They are known to be aggressive during the breeding season, particularly towards other lapwings or African jacanas entering their territory.


Breeding occurs in spring, with nests being shallow depressions on bare ground or short grass near water. The nests are typically spaced at least 400 meters apart. After breeding, the young gradually separate from their parents and do not return to their natal areas.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Blacksmith Lapwing consists of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, which they forage for in their wetland habitats.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Blacksmith Lapwing as Least Concern, indicating that the species does not currently face a significant risk of extinction.

Blacksmith Lapwing Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Blacksmith Lapwing Fun Facts

Did you know?
Blacksmith Lapwing are monogamous and have the same partner for life.

Blacksmith Lapwings on Birda


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