Masked Lapwing Earthwatch Australia

Masked Lapwing

Did You Know?

  • 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
FactBox Image

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. It has a prominent spur on each wing.

Juveniles are similar to adults, but have dark ‘scallop’ markings on the back and wings, and the wing spur and wattles are either smaller or absent.

Distinctive feature

A yellow wattle that extends from its forehead to behind its eye and hangs down beside its chin.


33 – 38 cm long



A loud penetrating "keer-kick-ki-ki-ki"; it is sometimes called the alarm bird.


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.


It will swoop at passers-by during breeding season.


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.

Field Guide

Improve your identification skills. Download your Masked Lapwing field guide here!

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What to Observe

  • Courting/Mating

  • Calling

  • Feeding

  • Bird on chicks

  • Bird on eggs

  • Bird on nest

  • Bird feeding young

Climate Adaptations

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.

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When and Where

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.

Where To Look

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

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.