Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis

  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Charadriidae
  • Polytypic: 4 subspecies
  • Authors: Eduardo S. A. Santos


  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Southern Lapwing
eBird range map for Southern Lapwing

Generated from eBird observations (Year-Round, 1900-present)

Distribution in the Americas

Southern Lapwings are a widespread plover species that is distributed from Costa Rica and northern South America in Venezuela to the southernmost tip of South America. They are common birds throughout their whole range. Originally Southern Lapwings were absent from most of the western portion of the Amazon Basin. For example, the first definite record for Ecuador was in 1969; since the 1980s, it distribution and abundance have increased considerably in that country, and it now is a regular part of the avifauna in eastern Ecuador (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001). Similarly, it appears to be increasing in adjacent Peru from a vagrant to an expected species, both in northeastern Peru in Loreto and in the southeast in Madre de Dios (T. Schulenberg, pers. comm.).

Farther to the north, there are isolated records for Belize, where the lapwing first was reported in 2004 (Lee 2004), and from Campeche, Mexico in 1996 (Martin 1997) and for Nayarit, Mexico in 2007 (Gómez de Silva 2007). Similarly, the Southern Lapwing previously was unreported from the West Indes (Raffaele et al. 1998), but a pair bred successfully on Barbados, West Indies, in 2007 (Norton et al. 2008).

There are several reports from North America. A sight record (photographed) from Maryland, USA, on 17 June 2006 was identified as the northern subspecies cayennensis, and so may have been a vagrant (Day 2007); also identified as a cayennensis Southern Lapwing was an individual present in Florida 6 May-11 June 2006 (Pranty 2006).

Distribution outside the Americas

Southern Lapwings are endemic to the Americas.


The species usually occurs on open grassland habitats. Southern Lapwings can be found on the coastline, near bodies of water, and even inland, away from major bodies of water. The species is well adapted to open grasslands. Southern Lapwings are commonly found in paddocks, pastures, farms, lawns, as well as any other urban landscape where the predominant substrate is short, grassy vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Southern Lapwings use the types of habitats described above during both the breeding and non-breeding seasons.

The species is uncommon in closed canopy forest habitats. However, Southern Lapwings can be found within closed canopy environments when open patches of vegetation or bodies of water are present nearby.

Historical changes

Also noted above (Distribution), the Southern Lapwing until recently was rare or absent from the western Amazon Basin, but its distribution and abundance are increasing rapidly there, at least in eastern Ecuador and in Peru.

The range of the Southern Lapwing also is expanding north into Central America. It has been present in Panama since at least the 1930s (Wetmore 1965), but until recently was not reported from north of there (e.g., no records for Costa Rica as of Stiles and Skutch 1989, or for Mexico as of Howell and Webb 1995). Now the lapwing is resident in Costa Rica (Stiles and Skutch 2007). The lapwing also has been bred for the first time in the West Indies (Norton et al. 2007).

Presumably these expansions of the range of the Southern Lapwing are a result of widespread deforestation, at least in Central America and in western South America.

Fossil history

No information is available.

Recommended Citation

Santos, E. S. A. (2010). Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.