The traditional terms plover, lapwing, and dotterel were coined long before modern understandings of the relationships between different groups of birds emerged: in consequence, several of the lapwings (subfamily Vanellinae) are still called "plovers", and the reverse also applies.
While authorities are generally agreed that there about 24 species of lapwing, classifications within the subfamily remain confused. At one extreme, Peters recognised no less than 19 different genera; other workers have gone as far as to group all the lapwings into the single genus, Vanellus. Current opinion appears to be that a more moderate position is appropriate.
These long-legged waders mostly have strongly patterned plumage. Although the most familiar northern hemisphere lapwing, Northern Lapwing, has a wispy crest, only two other species do so. Red or yellow facial wattles are a more typical decoration.
A group of lapwings is called a "deceit".
List of species in taxonomic order
Genus Vanellus Brisson, 1760
- Northern Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus
- White-headed Plover, Vanellus albiceps
- Southern Lapwing, Vanellus chilensis
- Grey-headed Lapwing, Vanellus cinereus
- Crowned Lapwing, Vanellus coronatus
- Long-toed Lapwing, Vanellus crassirostris
- River Lapwing or Spur-winged Lapwing, Vanellus duvaucelii
- Red-wattled Lapwing, Vanellus indicus
- Masked Lapwing, Vanellus miles
- Spur-winged Lapwing or Spur-winged Plover, Vanellus spinosus
- Banded Lapwing, Vanellus tricolor
- Blacksmith Lapwing, Vanellus armatus
- Black-headed Lapwing, Vanellus tectus
- Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Vanellus malabaricus
- Senegal Lapwing, Vanellus lugubris
- Black-winged Lapwing, Vanellus melanopterus
- African Wattled Lapwing, Vanellus senegallus
- Spot-breasted Lapwing, Vanellus melanocephalus: Endemic to Ethiopia.
- Brown-chested Lapwing, Vanellus superciliosus: Found in Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia.
- Javanese Wattled Lapwing, also known as the Javanese Lapwing, Vanellus macropterus : A wader in the lapwing family. This large, long-legged wader inhabited the marshes and river deltas of Java, and possibly Sumatra and Timor. It was last seen in 1940, and as it was a conspicuous species unlikely to be overlooked, it seems likely that it is extinct. However, following an unconfirmed record in 2002, the previous classification of "Critically Endangered (Possibly extinct)" was revoked, awaiting a last thorough survey in 2005/2006.
- \Sociable Lapwing, Vanellus gregarius
- White-tailed Lapwing, Vanellus leucurus
- Pied Lapwing, Vanellus cayanus
- Andean Lapwing, Vanellus resplendens
Genus Erythrogonys, Gould, 1838
- Red-kneed Dotterel, Erythrogonys cinctus
Many species have wattles which can be small (Black-headed, Spot-breasted, Red-wattled and Banded Lapwings) or large (White-headed Plover, African Wattled, Yellow-wattled, Javanese Wattled, or Masked Lapwings).
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