Unveiling the Life of the Yellow-wattled Lapwing : A Unique Bird of the Indian Subcontinent

The Indian Subcontinent is a treasure trove of avian diversity, brimming with unique bird species that paint the skies with their vibrant colors and melodious sounds. One such bird that stands out in its unique demeanor and captivating features is the Yellow-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus malabaricus), an endemic bird species of the region. Though not as flamboyant as some of its avian peers, the Yellow-wattled Lapwing is a bird lover’s delight, standing out with its characteristic call, swift flight, and mesmerizing wattles.

Serial NumberCharacteristicsDescription
1Common nameYellow-wattled Lapwing
2Scientific nameVanellus malabaricus
3ColourDull grey-brown with a black crown, white belly, and yellow legs
4Average length260-280mm
5Average heightApproximately 30 cm (when standing)
6Type of birdGround bird, Wader
7Found in India in statesAlmost all parts, especially in dry plains
8HabitatDry open lowland habitats, scrubland
9IUCN StatusNot listed on the IUCN Red List

Features of the Yellow-wattled Lapwing


The Yellow-wattled Lapwing is a medium-sized bird with a length ranging from 260-280mm. This measurement is from the tip of the beak to the tip of the tail when the bird is in its natural, horizontal orientation. Its size and structure are vital attributes, enabling it to maneuver swiftly across open lowland habitats and scrublands that it calls home. The relatively large size of the lapwing equips it to be a bird that’s capable of fast flight, a trait that distinguishes it among other bird species.


When we refer to the height of the bird, we talk about the length of the bird when measured from the base of the feet to the top of the head when the bird is standing upright. While the precise height of the Yellow-wattled Lapwing isn’t documented, based on its body length and the proportions of similar species, we can estimate its standing height to be around 30 cm. The relatively tall stature of the lapwing aids in better scanning of its surroundings for potential threats or food sources.

Running Speed

Like other lapwings and plovers, the Yellow-wattled Lapwing is a ground bird. Being a ground bird, it has evolved to be swift and agile on land. Their running speed, although not exactly measured, is commendable. When threatened, they can run briskly to escape or hide, and their fast flight comes into play if the threat level escalates. Their agility and speed help them evade predators, making them well-suited for their open habitat.

Color and Markings

Possessing a unique blend of dull grey-brown body, a black crown separated from the neck by a white band, and yellow facial wattles, the Yellow-wattled Lapwing is unmistakable and conspicuous. The chin and throat are black, and the white belly is set apart by a narrow blackish line. The tail showcases a subterminal black band that doesn’t extend to the outer tail-feathers. A distinctive white wingbar highlights the inner half of the wing, and the bill is yellow at the base. These features, combined with their yellow carpal spurs, make them visually striking in their native habitats.

Habitat and Food of the Bird

  1. Habitat Preference: The Yellow-wattled Lapwing is typically found in dry open lowland habitats and scrublands. It tends to prefer drier habitats than its relative, the Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus).
  1. Geographical Distribution: This species is widely distributed across most parts of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. They don’t migrate but are known to make short-distance movements in response to the seasonal rains.
  1. Food and Diet: As omnivorous creatures, Yellow-wattled Lapwings feed on both plant matter and small invertebrates. The main components of their diet are insects and seeds.
  1. Foraging Behavior: Being ground birds, they forage on the ground, moving around in a characteristic manner, pecking at the soil or vegetation to catch prey or find seeds.
  1. Water Dependency: While these birds don’t live near water bodies, they are known to visit them occasionally for drinking and wetting their breast feathers, a behavior termed as ‘belly soaking.’

Nesting and Nurturing

The Yellow-wattled Lapwing exhibits fascinating breeding and nurturing behaviors. The breeding season typically peaks between March and May, ahead of the monsoons. The nest is a simple collection of small pebbles, a testament to the bird’s adaptability to its environment. The eggs, typically four in number, are laid in this ground scrape and are well camouflaged, making them difficult to spot.

The male lapwing takes on the responsibility of incubating the eggs and tending to the young. Interestingly, the four eggs, despite being laid over a span of days, tend to hatch simultaneously. After hatching, the chicks are nidifugous and leave the nest quickly. They begin searching for food while their parents supervise them closely. Parents emit an alarm call in the face of potential threats, prompting the chicks to squat flat on the ground and freeze, camouflaging themselves.


While the Yellow-wattled Lapwing isn’t listed as threatened or endangered, it does face several challenges. Predation and nest damage are significant threats, affecting the hatching success rate. Their habitat, largely comprising open lands and scrublands, is under constant pressure due to human activities, such as agriculture and urban development.

IUCN Status and Conservation

The Yellow-wattled Lapwing is not currently listed on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it isn’t facing imminent extinction risk. However, continued habitat loss and fragmentation pose significant challenges to the species’ long-term survival. The conservation of these lapwings necessitates the preservation and management of their habitats.


The Yellow-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus malabaricus) is a unique bird species, highly adapted to thrive in its chosen habitats. Despite its rather humble appearance, this bird is an embodiment of resilience and adaptability, traits that allow it to thrive in varying environments. Their loud calls and swift flight are a treat to behold, contributing to the vibrant diversity of the Indian Subcontinent’s avian life. As we move forward, we need to ensure that the habitats of these marvelous creatures are preserved and protected, allowing them to continue to flourish in their native territories.

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