Red-wattled lapwing

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Red-wattled lapwing
Red-wattled Lapwing denoised.jpg
V. i. indicus (India)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Charadriidae
Genus: Vanellus
Species: V. indicus
Binomial name
Vanellus indicus
(Boddaert, 1783)

Hoplopterus indicus
Lobivanellus indicus
Lobivanellus goensis
Tringa indica
Sarcogrammus indicus

The red-wattled lapwing (Vanellus indicus) is a lapwing or large plover, a wader in the family Charadriidae. It has characteristic loud alarm calls which are variously rendered as did he do it or pity to do it[2] leading to colloquial names like the did-he-do-it bird.[3] Usually seen in pairs or small groups not far from water but may form large flocks in the non-breeding season (winter).[4]


View of the wattles

Red-wattled lapwings are large waders, about 35 cm long. The wings and back are light brown with a purple sheen, but head and chest and front part of 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.[5]

V. i. aigneri from Turkey

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.[6]

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 320-350mm, wing of 208-247mm with the nominate averaging 223mm, Sri Lanka 217mm. The Bill is 31-36mm and tarsus of 70-83mm. Tail length is 104-128mm.[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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[5]

V. i. atronuchalis

Its striking appearance is supplemented by its noisy nature, with a loud and scolding did-he-do-it call, often uttered at night.[6]

Leucistic abnormal plumage is rare.[9]

The local names are mainly onomatopoeic in origin and include titeeri (Hindi), 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, 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[5] on creation of requisite habitats, but by and large the populations are resident.[10]

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[edit]

Call of red-wattled lapwing
Chicks and eggs on a scrape nest. The young hatch in synchrony and the cryptically plumaged chick typically lies still when alarmed.[5]

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.[7] The eggs are laid in a ground scrape or depression sometimes fringed with pebbles, goat or hare droppings.[11] 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.[5] In residential areas, they sometimes take to nesting on roof-tops.[12][13][14] They have been recorded nesting on the stones between the rails of a railway track, the adult leaving the nest when trains passed.[15] Nests that have been threatened by agricultural operations have been manually translocated by gradually shifting the eggs.[16] When nesting they will attempt to dive bomb or distract potential predators.[17][18][19][20] 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.[21] 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 had a lower mortality (8.3%) and their survival improved after the first week.[22]

Like other lapwings, they soak their belly feathers to provide water to their chicks as well as to cool the eggs during hot weather.[23][24]

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

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.[25]

In flight
In flight. Note the diagnostic white wing bar, and broad black band on tail

Healthy adult birds have few predators[citation needed]. Some species of tapeworm and trematodes have been described as endoparasites.[26][27]


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.[28]

In culture[edit]

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 pee-wit support the heavens?") is used when referring 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.[29] The eggs are known to be collected by practitioners of folk medicine.[30][31][32]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Vanellus indicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Jerdon, TC (1864). The Birds of India. George Wyman & Co. pp. 648–649. 
  3. ^ Symons, CT (1917). "Note on the breeding habits of the Did-he-do-it Sarcogrammus indicus". Spolia Zeylanica. 10 (39): 397–398. 
  4. ^ a b c Hayman, P.; J. Marchant; T. Prater (1986). Shorebirds: an identification guide to the waders of the world. Croom Helm, London. pp. 274–275. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Ali, S & S D Ripley (1980). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. 2 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 212–215. 
  6. ^ a b 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. 
  7. ^ a b Vyas, Rakesh (1997). "Flocking and courtship display in Redwattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 94: 406–407. 
  8. ^ Ali, Salim (1996). Book of Indian Birds, Salim Ali centenary edition. Mumbai: Bombay Natural History Society/Oxford University Press. p. 139. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Saini, SS (1972). "Unexpected summer visitors in the Himalayas – Redwattled Lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 12 (8): 5–6. 
  11. ^ Sharma, SK (1992). "Use of droppings of Indian Hare for nest making by Redwattled Lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 32 (7&8): 19. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Tehsin, Raza H; Lokhandwala, Juzer (1982). "Unusual nesting of Redwattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 79 (2): 414. 
  14. ^ Reeves, SK (1975). "Unusual nesting by Red-wattled Lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 15 (2): 5–6. 
  15. ^ McCann, Charles (1941). "Curious nesting site of the Red-wattled Lapwing (Lobivanellus indicus indicus Bodd.)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 42 (2): 439–440. 
  16. ^ Sridhar, S; Karanth, P (1991). "Dilemma near the nest of a pair of red-wattled lapwings". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 31 (7&8): 7–9. 
  17. ^ Rangaswami, S (1980). "Lapwing fighting off cobra". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 20 (1): 13. 
  18. ^ Bhatnagar, RK (1978). "Interaction of a Redwattled Lapwing and a dog". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 18 (1): 9. 
  19. ^ Bhagwat, VR (1991). "Lapwings and snake". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 31 (5&6): 10–11. 
  20. ^ Kalsi, RS; Khera, S (1987). "Agonistic and distraction behaviour of the Redwattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus indicus". Pavo. 25 (1&2): 43–56. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ Sundararaman, V. (1989). "Belly-soaking and nest wetting behaviour of Redwattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus (Boddaert)". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 86: 242. 
  24. ^ Kalsi, R. S. & S. Khera (1990). "Growth and development of the Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus". Stilt. 17: 57–64. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ 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. 
  27. ^ Siddiqi, AH; Jairajpuri MS (1962). "Uvitellina indica n. sp. (Trematoda: Cyclocoeliidae) from a redwattled lapwing, Lobivanellus indicus (Boddaert)". Zeitschrift für Parasitenkunde. 21: 212–4. PMID 13912529. doi:10.1007/BF0026033. 
  28. ^ Babi, AZ (1987). "Feeding behaviour of red-wattled lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 27 (1–2): 15. 
  29. ^ Saxena VS (1974). "Unusual nesting by Red-wattled Lapwing". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 14 (11): 3–5. 
  30. ^ Ganesh Tamang (2003). "An Ethnobiological Study of the Tamang People" (PDF). Our Nature. 1: 37–41. 
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ 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. 

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