The Black-winged Lapwing, also known as Greater Black-winged Lapwing, Black-winged Plover, and Vanellus melanopterus, is a small bird species that is endemic to eastern Africa, particularly in Ethiopian highlands in the north to central Kenya, and in eastern South Africa. The Black-winged Lapwing is categorized under the family Charadriidae, consisting of 64 to 66 species of lapwings, dotterels, and plovers. The Black-winged Lapwing’s closest relatives include the Snowy plover, Hooded Dotterel, Lesser Sand Plover, and Eurasian Dotterel.
This bird species was first described by German physician Philipp Jakob Cretzschmar in 1829. One Black-winged Lapwing subspecies is recognized by naturalists: the Vanellus melanopterus minor, which is endemic to the middle to coastal elevations in eastern South Africa.
The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies to this species, because human interventions and technological advancements have brought both positive and negative impacts to them. As such, to preserve their population, locals have exhausted their efforts to take good care of them. Even though the most significant threat for the Black-winged Lapwing’s population is habitat loss, still, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorized them as Least Concern.
Its eight levels of scientific classifications are as follows:
Species: V. melanopterus
The physical characteristics of a Black-winged Lapwing
The Black-winged Lapwing has a black breast band that divides the bid species’ grey head and neck from the white underside. It has long, thin legs that are either brown or pale red in color. Its wing coverts are color brown, and it has a variable but distinct white forehead patch that resembles that of the Senegal Lapwing’s, but the latter showcases a distinct white wingbar during flight. The two bird species are separated by habitat preferences—Black-winged Lapwings prefer living in well-watered temperate grasslands, while Senegal Lapwings prefer lower, mostly drier habitats.
The distribution and habitat of Black-winged Lapwings
The Black-winged Lapwings can be found in eastern and southeastern regions of the African continent, particularly in Ethiopia’s highland grasslands, northern Tanzania, southern Kenya, and it has a separate population in southern Africa. It is locally common from the south of Mpumalanga to Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal, extending south to the coast through the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
Black-winged Lapwings prefer habitats with short grasses and well-watered temperate lands. They may migrate locally, depending on the weather. They also frequent other habitats such as highland plateaus, slopes, meadows, pastures, coastal flats, and urban areas with mown grass such as golf courses.
The behavior of a Black-winged Lapwing
This bird species behaves like birds of its size but more generally occurring Crowned Lapwing and other bird species that belong within their flock.
During the spring breeding season, their legs brighten when they move to higher elevations. Male Black-winged Lapwings show aggression by display fights and callings when they are establishing their territories. A receptive female Black-winged Lapwing will follow the male during the fight, and they will copulate soon after the fighting ensues.
Breeding pairs usually nest on top of a slope in burnt grassland. They form monogamous pairs that last a lifetime. Experts say that they are either solitary or loosely colonial nesters that share breeding time with Spotted Thick-knees and Crowned Lapwings. The male will defend their small territory, and when an intruder appears, it will flick its tail downward and will bob his body back and forth.
The nest is usually lined with roots, small stones, dried dung, and other plant materials. Females typically lay eggs from May to November, which peaks between August and September. A female bird usually lays 1-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes during the day, but only the female will incubate at night for 30 to 31 days. Once hatched, the chicks will remain in the nest for one day, after which they can already follow their parents when hunting for food.
The diet of a Black-winged Lapwing
This bird species usually feeds on termites, making up to 90% of its diet. It also feeds on invertebrates such as insects, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, flies, mollusks, earthworms, and spiders. It also occasionally feeds on small vertebrate species such as fish.
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