Wild Birds

Grey-headed Lapwings

The migratory Grey-headed Lapwings (Vanellus cinereus) breed in northeast China and Japan.

The mainland populations winter in northern Southeast Asia from northeastern India to Cambodia. The Japanese population winter, at least partially, in southern Honshū.

Vagrants have been reported in Russia, the Philippines, Indonesia and New South Wales, Australia

Visitor Kim Kitamura from Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan contributed the photos on this page and provided the following information about this bird species: “Generally, they are quite shy and quickly fly away from people, but I have […] discovered that they are fiercely protective of their nests, going so far as to threaten even humans […] that get too close.”


The Grey-headed Lapwings measure 34 – 37 cm in length.

The head and neck are grey. The abdomen is white. There is a darker grey chest band. The back is brown, the rump is white and the tail is black.

This is a striking species in flight, with black primaries (longest wing feathers), white under wings and upper wing secondaries (shorter, upper “arm” feathers), and brown upper wing coverts.

Males and females look alike; except the males are slightly larger than females.

Juveniles have grey areas of plumage tinged with grey, a less distinct breast band, and pale fringes to the upper part and wing covert feathers.

Call / Vocalization

The call of the Grey-headed Lapwing is described as a sharp chee-it.

Nesting / Breeding

They typically nest in wet grassland, rice fields, and marshland edges.

The breeding season stretches from April to July.

Diet / Feeding

It feeds in shallow waters on insects, worms, and mollusks.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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