An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. 142 Photo by Frank O'Connor
  2. 142_0 Photo by Frank O'Connor
  3. 044_masked_lapwing_with_chick_vanellus_miles_-_credit_to_tony_rodd Masked Lapwing with chick by Tony Rodd
  4. 092_rbg_sydney_masked_lapwing__2_ Masked Lapwing

Masked Lapwing

Vanellus miles


  • Colour: the top of its head and its hindneck are black. Its forehead is covered with bright-yellow skin, which hangs down to form wattles. The rest of the head is white. Its back and wings are pale grey-brown. Below, black plumage extends from the hindneck onto the sides of its breast, and the rest of the underparts are white. Its long legs and feet are reddish and its bill is yellow.
  • Distinctive feature: a yellow wattle that extends from its forehead to behind its eye and hangs down beside its chin.
  • It has a prominent spur on each wing.
  • Juveniles are similar to adults, but have a dark ‘scallop’ markings on the back and wings, and the wing spur and wattles are either smaller or absent.
  • Size: 33 – 38 cm long.


  • Call: a loud penetrating "keer-kick-ki-ki-ki"; it is sometimes called the alarm bird.
  • Diet: mainly insects but also worms, spiders and snails. Most food is obtained from on or just below the ground. They usually feed in pairs, but sometimes also singly or in small groups.
  • Flight: it will swoop at passers-by during breeding season.
  • Breeding: may breed in any season when conditions are suitable. Its nest is a simple scrape or small depression in the ground. Between 3 and 5 eggs are laid, and they are incubated by both parents for 28 to 30 days. Chicks are able to feed themselves as soon as they hatch. The parents are extremely defensive around their nesting site, particularly after the young have hatched. Young are independent after 8 to 10 months, but they may remain with their parents for up to 2 years.

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating
  • Calling
  • Feeding
  • Bird on chicks
  • Bird on eggs
  • Bird on nest
  • Bird feeding young

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

The effects of climate change may influence a change in the timing of when Masked Lapwings start to breed and the duration of their breeding activities. Help scientists answer the question: "How are our animals, plants and ecosystems responding to climate change?" by recording the observations above.

When To Look

  • From late spring through to winter in northern Australia and from late winter to early spring in southern Australia, though breeding may occur at any time when conditions are suitable.

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes in the timing of these events, so remember to keep a lookout at any time of the year!

Where To Look

  • It mostly inhabits open, short-grassed habitats, often near a wetland. They also often occur on mudflats, beaches and in built-up areas.
  • It is widespread in many parts of Australia, especially in northern, central and eastern Australia.
  • Look for it on the ground. The nest is often located on open ground in urban areas, such as suburban parks, gardens, playing fields and lawns.

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes in their known ranges, so remember to keep a lookout anywhere in Australia!

masked lapwing occurence - ALA



Both C, Artemyev AV, Blaauw B, Cowie RJ, Dekhuijzen AJ, Eeva T, Enemar A, Gustafsson L, Ivankina EV, Jarvinen A, Metcalfe NB, Nyholm NEI, Potti J, Ravussin P, Sanz JJ, Silverin B, Slater FM, Sokolov LV, Torok J, Winkel W, Wright J, Zang H, and Visser ME 2004. Large-scale geographical variation confirms that climate change causes birds to lay earlier. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 271: 1657–1662.

Hughes, L 2003. Climate change and Australia: Trends, projections and impacts. Austral Ecology 28: 423–443.

Walther G, Post E, Convey P, Menzel A, Parmesan C, Beebee TJC, Fromentin J, Hoegh-Guldberg O, and Bairlein F 2002. Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416: 389–395.

Marchant, S & Higgins PJ (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Vol. 2. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Morcombe M 2000. Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing Pty Ltd, Archerfield, Qld.

Pizzey G & Knight F 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Pringle JD 1987. The Shorebirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.

Schodde R & Tidemann SC (eds) 1990. Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (2nd Edition). Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.

  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    Banded Lapwing (Vanellus tricolor): is smaller (25 - 29 cm long) with much more black on the head and lower breast, with a distinct white eye-stripe and white throat and upper breast, forming a white ‘bib’. There is also a distinctive red patch at the base of its bill.

  1. Did You Know?

    The call recording is by David Stewart Naturesound

    It is the largest bird in the Charadriidae family.

    Its species name miles is latin for soldier and refers to the spurs on its wings, which make it appear as though it is armed.

    Some individuals seldom breed successfully, especially those living in urban areas, due to disturbance by people and vehicles.

    Adults remain in the same general area from year to year, and young birds seldom move more than 10 km from the nest site.

    It is also found in parts of Indonesia, New Guinea, New Caledonia and New Zealand. The populations in New Caledonia and New Zealand were colonised by birds that flew there from Australia.

  1. Listen to the Call