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Vanellus indicus

Vanellus indicus, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Subsectio: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Infraclassis: Aves
Cladus: Euavialae
Cladus: Avebrevicauda
Cladus: Pygostylia
Cladus: Ornithothoraces
Cladus: Euornithes
Cladus: Ornithuromorpha
Cladus: Ornithurae
Cladus: Carinatae
Parvclassis: Neornithes
Cohors: Neognathae
Ordo: Charadriiformes
Subordo: Charadrii

Familia: Charadriidae
Genus: Vanellus
Species: Vanellus indicus
Subspecies: V. i. aigneri - V. i. atronuchalis - V. i. indicus - V. i. lankae

Vanellus indicus (Boddaert, 1783)

Table des Planches Enluminéez d'Histoire Naturelle de M. D'Aubenton. p. 50

Vernacular names
čeština: Čejka černoprsá
Deutsch: Rotlappenkiebitz
English: Red-wattled Lapwing
Esperanto: Hinda vanelo
français: Vanneau indien
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: ନାଲି ଟେଣ୍ଟେଇ
தமிழ்: சிவப்பு மூக்கு ஆள்காட்டி குருவி
ไทย: นกต้อยตีวิด, นกกระแตแต้แว้ด

The red-wattled lapwing (Vanellus indicus) is an Asian lapwing or large plover, a wader in the family Charadriidae. Like other lapwings they are ground birds that are incapable of perching. Their characteristic loud alarm calls are indicators of human or animal movements and the sounds have been variously rendered as did he do it or pity to do it[2] leading to the colloquial name of did-he-do-it bird.[3] Usually seen in pairs or small groups and usually not far from water they sometimes form large aggregations in the non-breeding season (winter). They nest in a ground scrape laying three to four camouflaged eggs. Adults near the nest fly around, diving at potential predators while calling noisily. The cryptically patterned chicks hatch and immediately follow their parents to feed, hiding by lying low on the ground or in the grass when threatened.[4]

View of the wattles

Traditionally well known to native hunters, the red-wattled lapwing was first described in a book by the French polymath Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon in his Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux in 1781.[5] The bird was also illustrated in a hand-coloured plate engraved by François-Nicolas Martinet in the Planches Enluminées D'Histoire Naturelle produced under the supervision of Edme-Louis Daubenton to accompany Buffon's text.[6] Neither the plate nor Buffon's description included a scientific name but in 1783 the Dutch naturalist Pieter Boddaert used the binomial name Tringa indica in his catalogue of the Planches Enluminées.[7] The type locality is Goa in western India.[8] It was subsequently placed in various other genera such as Sarcogrammus and Lobivanellus before being merged into Vanellus which was erected by the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760.[9][10] Vanellus is the Medieval Latin for a "lapwing". It is a diminutive of the Latin vanus meaning "winnowing" or "fan". The specific epithet indicus is the Latin for "India".[11]

Across their wide range there are slight differences in the plumage and there are four recognized subspecies:[12]

V. i. aigneri (Laubmann, 1913) – southeast Turkey to Pakistan
V. i. indicus (Boddaert, 1783) – central Pakistan to Nepal, northeast India and Bangladesh
V. i. lankae (Koelz, 1939) – Sri Lanka
V. i. atronuchalis (Jerdon, 1864) – northeast India to south China, southeast Asia, Malay Peninsula and north Sumatra

V. i. aigneri (Turkey)

V. i. atronuchalis showing the white ear patch bounded by black (Thailand)

V. i. lankae wading (Sri Lanka)


Red-wattled lapwings are large waders, about 35 cm (14 in) long. The wings and back are light brown with a purple to green sheen, but the head, a bib on the front and back of the neck are black. Prominently white patch runs between these two colours, from belly and tail, flanking the neck to the sides of crown. Short tail is tipped black. A red fleshy wattle in front of each eye, black-tipped red bill, and the long legs are yellow. In flight, prominent white wing bars formed by the white on the secondary coverts.[13]

Race aigneri is slightly paler and larger than the nominate race and is found in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Indus valley. The nominate race is found all over India. The Sri Lankan race lankae is smaller and dark while atronuchalis the race in north-eastern India and eastern Bangladesh has a white cheek surrounded by black.[14]
V. i. indicus showing the diagnostic white wing bar and a broad black band on the white tail.

Males and females are similar in plumage but males have a 5% longer wing and tend to have a longer carpal spur. The length of the birds is 320–350 mm, wing of 208–247 mm with the nominate averaging 223 mm, Sri Lanka 217 mm. The Bill is 31–36 mm and tarsus of 70–83 mm. Tail length is 104–128 mm.[4]

It usually keeps in pairs or trios in well-watered open country, ploughed fields, grazing land, and margins and dry beds of tanks and puddles. They occasionally form large flocks, ranging from 26 to 200 birds.[15] It is also found in forest clearings around rain-filled depressions. It runs about in short spurts and dips forward obliquely (with unflexed legs) to pick up food in a typical plover manner.[16] They are said to feed at night being especially active around the full moon.[4] Is uncannily and ceaselessly vigilant, day or night, and is the first to detect intrusions and raise an alarm, and was therefore considered a nuisance by hunters. Flight rather slow, with deliberate flaps, but capable of remarkable agility when defending nest or being hunted by a hawk.[13]

Its striking appearance is supplemented by its noisy nature, with a loud and scolding did-he-do-it call, uttered both in the day and night.[14]

Leucistic abnormal plumages have been noted.[17]

The local names are mainly onomatopoeic in origin and include titeeri (Hindi), titawi (Marathi), tittibha (Kannada), tateehar (Sindhi), titodi (Gujarati), hatatut (Kashmiri), balighora (Assamese), yennappa chitawa (Telugu),[2] aal-kaati (Tamil, meaning "human indicator").[2]

It breeds from West Asia (Iraq, SW Iran, Persian Gulf) eastwards across South Asia (Baluchistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the entire Indian subcontinent up to Kanyakumari and up to 1800m in Kashmir/Nepal), with another sub-species further east in Southeast Asia. May migrate altitudinally in spring and autumn (e.g. in N. Baluchistan or NW Pakistan), and spreads out widely in the monsoons[13] on creation of requisite habitats, but by and large the populations are resident.[18]

This species is declining in its western range, but is abundant in much of South Asia, being seen at almost any wetland habitat in its range.
Behaviour and ecology

The breeding season is mainly March to August. The courtship involves the male puffing its feathers and pointing its beak upwards. The male then shuffles around the female. Several males may display to females and they may be close together.[15] The eggs are laid in a ground scrape or depression sometimes fringed with pebbles, goat or hare droppings.[19] About 3–4 black-blotched buff eggs shaped a bit like a peg-top (pyriform), 42x30 mm on average. Nests are difficult to find since the eggs are cryptically coloured and usually matches the ground pattern.[13] In residential areas, they sometimes take to nesting on roof-tops.[20][21][22] They have been recorded nesting on the stones between the rails of a railway track, the adult leaving the nest when trains passed.[23] Nests that have been threatened by agricultural operations have been manually translocated by gradually shifting the eggs.[24] When nesting they will attempt to dive bomb or distract potential predators.[25][26][27][28] Both the male and female incubate the eggs and divert predators using distraction displays or flash their wings to deter any herbivores that threaten the nest. Males appear to relieve females incubating at the nest particularly towards the hot part of noon.[29] The eggs hatch in 28 to 30 days. The reproductive success is about 40%. Egg mortality is high (~43%) due to predation by mongooses, crows and kites. Chicks have a lower mortality (8.3%) and their survival improves after the first week.[30]

Like other lapwings, they soak their belly feathers to provide water to their chicks as well as to cool the eggs during hot weather.[31][32]

V. i. aigneri eggs from MHNT

Chicks and eggs on a scrape nest. The young hatch in synchrony and the cryptically plumaged chick typically lies still when alarmed.[13]

The chick leaves the nest and follows the parents soon after hatching

A juvenile

They bathe in pools of water when available and will often spend time on preening when leaving the nest or after copulation. They sometimes rest on the ground with the tarsi laid flat on the ground and at other times may rest on one leg.[33]

Healthy adult birds have few predators and are capable of rapid and agile flight when pursued by hawks or falcons.[13] Hugh B. Cott claimed that the flesh of the bird was unpalatable based on evidence from an Indian geologist who noted that a hungry tiger cub refused to eat their meat.[34] Some endoparasitic tapeworms, nematodes, and trematodes have been described from the species.[35][36][37] Mortality caused by respiratory infection by Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale has been recorded in captive birds in Pakistan.[38]

The diet of the lapwing includes a range of insects, snails and other invertebrates, mostly picked from the ground. They may also feed on some grains. They feed mainly during the day but they may also feed at night. They may sometimes make use of the legs to disturb insect prey from soft soil.[39]
In culture

In parts of India, a local belief is that the bird sleeps on its back with the legs upwards and an associated Hindi metaphor Tithiri se asman thama jayega ("can the lapwing support the heavens?") is used to refer to persons undertaking tasks beyond their ability or strength.[2]

In parts of Rajasthan it is believed that the laying of eggs by the lapwing on high ground was an indication of good rains to come.[40] The eggs are known to be collected by practitioners of folk medicine.[41][42][43] The Bhils of Malwa believed that the laying of eggs by red-wattled lapwings in the dry beds of streams as forewarnings of delayed rains or droughts. Eggs laid on the banks on the other hand were taken as indications of normal rains.[44]

BirdLife International. (2016). Vanellus indicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22694013A89569039.en
Jerdon, TC (1864). The Birds of India. George Wyman & Co. pp. 648–649.
Symons, CT (1917). "Note on the breeding habits of the Did-he-do-it Sarcogrammus indicus". Spolia Zeylanica. 10 (39): 397–398.
Hayman, P.; J. Marchant; T. Prater (1986). Shorebirds: an identification guide to the waders of the world. Croom Helm, London. pp. 274–275.
Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc de (1781). "Le Vanneau armé des Indes". Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux (in French). Volume 15. Paris: De L'Imprimerie Royale. p. 101.
Buffon, Georges-Louis Leclerc de; Martinet, François-Nicolas; Daubenton, Edme-Louis; Daubenton, Louis-Jean-Marie (1765–1783). "Vanneau armé, de Goa". Planches Enluminées D'Histoire Naturelle. Volume 9. Paris: De L'Imprimerie Royale. Plate 807.
Boddaert, Pieter (1783). Table des planches enluminéez d'histoire naturelle de M. D'Aubenton : avec les denominations de M.M. de Buffon, Brisson, Edwards, Linnaeus et Latham, precedé d'une notice des principaux ouvrages zoologiques enluminés (in French). Utrecht. p. 50, Number 807.
Peters, James Lee, ed. (1934). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 2. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 238.
Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés (in French and Latin). Volume 1. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. p. 48.
Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés (in French and Latin). Volume 5. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. p. 94.
Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 204, 398. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2019). "Grebes, flamingos, buttonquail, plovers, painted-snipes, jacanas, plains-wanderer, seedsnipes". World Bird List Version 9.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
Ali, S & S D Ripley (1980). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. 2 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 212–215.
Pamela C. Rasmussen & John C. Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. ISBN 84-87334-67-9. OCLC 60359701.
Vyas, Rakesh (1997). "Flocking and courtship display in Redwattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 94: 406–407.
Ali, Salim (1996). Book of Indian Birds, Salim Ali centenary edition. Mumbai: Bombay Natural History Society/Oxford University Press. p. 139.
Mehra SP; N Singh & S Mehra (2008). "Sighting of a partially albino Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus in Udaipur, Rajasthan". Indian Birds. 4 (3): 120.
Saini, SS (1972). "Unexpected summer visitors in the Himalayas – Redwattled Lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 12 (8): 5–6.
Sharma, SK (1992). "Use of droppings of Indian Hare for nest making by Redwattled Lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 32 (7&8): 19.
Mundkur, Taej (1985). "Observations on the roof-nesting habit of the Redwattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) in Poona, Maharashtra". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 82 (1): 194–196.
Tehsin, Raza H; Lokhandwala, Juzer (1982). "Unusual nesting of Redwattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 79 (2): 414.
Reeves, SK (1975). "Unusual nesting by Red-wattled Lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 15 (2): 5–6.
McCann, Charles (1941). "Curious nesting site of the Red-wattled Lapwing (Lobivanellus indicus indicus Bodd.)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 42 (2): 441–442.
Sridhar, S; Karanth, P (1991). "Dilemma near the nest of a pair of red-wattled lapwings". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 31 (7&8): 7–9.
Rangaswami, S (1980). "Lapwing fighting off cobra". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 20 (1): 13.
Bhatnagar, RK (1978). "Interaction of a Redwattled Lapwing and a dog". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 18 (1): 9.
Bhagwat, VR (1991). "Lapwings and snake". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 31 (5&6): 10–11.
Kalsi, RS; Khera, S (1987). "Agonistic and distraction behaviour of the Redwattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus indicus". Pavo. 25 (1&2): 43–56.
Naik, RM; George, PV; Dixit, Dhruv B (1961). "Some observations on the behaviour of the incubating Redwattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus indicus (Bodd.)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 58 (1): 223–230.
Desai, JH; Malhotra, AK (1976). "A note on incubation period and reproductive success of the Redwattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus at Delhi Zoological Park". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 73 (2): 392–394.
Sundararaman, V. (1989). "Belly-soaking and nest wetting behaviour of Redwattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus (Boddaert)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 86: 242.
Kalsi, R. S. & S. Khera (1990). "Growth and development of the Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus". Stilt. 17: 57–64.
Kalsi, RS; Khera, S (1992). "Some observations on maintenance behaviour of the Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus (Boddaert)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 89 (3): 368–372.
Cott, Hugh B. (1946). "The Edibility of Birds: Illustrated by Five Years' Experiments and Observations (1941–1946) on the Food Preferences of the Hornet, Cat and Man;and considered with Special Reference to the Theories of Adaptive Coloration". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 116 (3–4): 371–524. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1947.tb00131.x.
Jadhav. V.; Nanware S. S.; Rao S. S. (1994). "Two new tapeworm Panuwa ahilyai n. sp. and Panuwa shindei n. sp. from Vanellus indicus at Aurangabad, M.S., India". Rivista di Parassitologia. 55 (3): 379–384.
Sarwar, M. M. (1956). "On Some Spirurid and Filariid Nematodes of Birds in Pakistan". Journal of Helminthology. 30 (2–3): 103–112. doi:10.1017/S0022149X00033046. PMID 13346051.
Siddiqi, AH; Jairajpuri MS (1962). "Uvitellina indica n. sp. (Trematoda: Cyclocoeliidae) from a redwattled lapwing, Lobivanellus indicus (Boddaert)". Zeitschrift für Parasitenkunde. 21 (3): 212–4. doi:10.1007/bf00260233. PMID 13912529. S2CID 9487751.
Umar, S.; M. Iqbal; A. H. Khan; A. Mushtaq; K. Aqil; T. Jamil; S. Asif; N. Qamar; A. Shahzad; M. Younus (2017). "Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale infection in red wattled lapwings (Vanellus indicus) in Pakistan – a case report". Vet. Arhiv. 87 (5): 641–648. doi:10.24099/vet.arhiv.160519b.
Babi, AZ (1987). "Feeding behaviour of red-wattled lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 27 (1–2): 15.
Saxena VS (1974). "Unusual nesting by Red-wattled Lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 14 (11): 3–5.
Tamang, Ganesh (2003). "An Ethnobiological Study of the Tamang People". Our Nature. 1: 37–41. doi:10.3126/on.v1i1.303.
Negi, Chandra S. Negi & Veerendra S. Palyal (2007). "Traditional Uses of Animal and Animal Products in Medicine and Rituals by the Shoka Tribes of District Pithoragarh, Uttaranchal, India" (PDF). Studies on Ethno-Medicine. 1 (1): 47–54. doi:10.1080/09735070.2007.11886300. S2CID 30993906.
Srinivas, K.V. & S. Subramanya (2000). "Stealing of Redwattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus (Boddaert) and Yellow-wattled Lapwing Vanellus malabaricus (Boddaert) eggs by cowherds". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 97 (1): 143–144.

Luard, C.E. (1909). Jungle tribes of Malwa. The Ethnographical Survey of the Central India Agency. Monograph No. 11. Lucknow p. 27.

Other sources

Anon. (1991) Flocking of Red Wattled Lapwings. Newsletter for Birdwatchers 31(5–6):1.
Dharmakumarsinhji, RS (1965) Small displacement by ground nesting birds. Newsletter for Birdwatchers 5(9):10.
Gay, Thomas (1975). "More about the nesting of the Red-wattled Lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 15 (4): 9.
Jamdar, Nitin (1985) Redwattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) suffering from cataract. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 82(1):197.
Kalsi, RS; Khera, S (1986) Some observations on breeding and displacement behaviour of the Redwattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus indicus (Aves: Charadriidae). Res. Bull. Panjab Univ. 37:131–141.
Khajuria, H (1972) Nestlings of the redwattled lapwing, Vanellus i. indicus (boddaert). Pavo 8(1&2):82–83.
Koshy, MS (1989) Lapwings on a roof. Newsletter for Birdwatchers 29(7–8):7.
Krishnan, M (1998) Ubiquitous alarmist. Blackbuck. 14(3&4):88–90.
Jackson, P (1976) Redwattled Lapwing. Newsletter for Birdwatchers 16(3):11–12.
Saxena, VS (1973) Unusual nesting by Redwattled Lapwing. Indian Forester 99:33–35.

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