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Chestnut-banded Plover is endemic at soda lakes in S Kenya and N Tanzania. Photo Per Holmen

Plovers and Lapwings in East Africa

Order Charadriiformes – Shorebirds has a large variety of birds from small to large. Most of them live near water, but some inhabit forest or even deserts. Some are pelagic which means living in the open sea. They feed on invertebrates and other small animals. Since a good number are migrants, they have long, sharp ending wings. To keep the feathers functioning they bath in fresh water and apply the oily secretion from the preen gland. 

Due to the many families and species in this order we had to split them into several pages.

Plovers, Lapwings & Dotterels – Family Charadriidae

Most species are found near fresh water or at the shores of the Indian Ocean. Some of the smaller species are migrants from the North, larger species or lapwings are residents or intra-African migrants. They build a simple nest on the ground and the young move after hatching. The parents can divert predators by making noise or pretending they are injured. Still the young are vulnerable especially where there are many Marabou Storks. Some Lapwings are very good in warning of danger and can also mob predators.

Plovers and Lapwings from common to rare or endemic

The larger plovers are called lapwings (Vanellus spp) by some authors.

Click on the photo for larger view. The names of the photographers are on the photo and in the text. Without the generosity of fantastic bird photographers we had not been in a position to give you all the species information with photos. Those photos without name are from Elvira Wolfer.

To give you as actual information as possible we use Avibase, the books “Birds of South of the Sahara”, “Birds of East Africa”, “Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania”. Then we put the most characteristic information to the photo.

You can also follow us on Facebook “Bird photography Safaris Kenya” and see the numerous species as well as the beautiful photos from Lorenzo Barelli.

Due to the different habitats they inhabit you won’t find them at the same place. Travelling or several visits concentrating on some species are required and advised. Some are found at the coast and others far inland. But if you have time we take you to different places with enough time to search for the species you would like to see.

Birding Kenya Central & West Safari 13 days

Kenya bird watching safari 13 days Nairobi to coast

Mongolian or Lesser Sandplover (Charadrius mongolus pamirensis) breeds from Pamir to China and winters in Africa along the coast and at lakes. Breeding and non breeding plumage. Mida Creek, April 2023

Greater Sandplover (Charadrius leschenaultii scythicus) spends the North summer in Transcapia to SE Kazakhstan. From August to May they are found along African coasts and some inland lakes. Photo Per Holmen

Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus) breeds at the Caspian sea to extreme West China and winters in East and South Africa from August to April on short grass plains. Photo left non breeding, Masai Mara, right spring plumage by Per Holmen

White-fronted Plover or Sandplover (Charadrius marginatus mechowi). It is found along the Ocean, estuaries and larger inland rivers and pans in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Photo Jacques  Pitteloud

Kittlitz’s Plover (Charadrius pecuarius) is common and widespread in Africa near water. Photo by Lorenzo Barelli

Kentish Plover (Charadrius a. alexandrinus) might be best found in East Africa at Lake Turkana, scarce at other lakes in and near Rift Valley. It is a not very common palearctic migrant.

Common ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula tundrae) is a common palearctic migrant to African wetlands from September to May. They breed from N Scandinavia to Eastern Siberia. Photos Lorenzo Barelli

Little ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius curonicus) is a quite uncommon palearctic migrant to East to West Africa from September to April. They are found near water. Photo Jacques Pitteloud

Three-banded Plover (Charadrius t. tricollaris) is widespread and common in Afrika near water.

Chestnut-banded Plover (Charadrius pallidus venustus) is only found at the Kenyan-Tanzanian border like the soda Lakes Magadi, Natron to Lake Ndutu. Photo Per Holmen

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) is an uncommon palearctic migrant. In East Africa it is found long the Indian Ocean shore and Lake Turkana. They breed in Siberia and West Alaska. Photo Per Holmen

Grey or black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) holarctic and almost cosmopolitan along coasts and Great Rift Valley lakes when not breeding. Mida Creek, April 2023

Long-toed Lapwing (Vanellus c. crassirostris) likes marshes and floodplains. Its long toes allow it to walk on floating plants. Common and quite wide spread.

Blacksmith Lapwing (Vanellus armatus) occurs at wetland margins and adjoining grassland. They can be numerous and are good warners with their metallic call.

Spur-winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus) is widespread from East to West Africa at water bodies. They are also good warners of approaching danger.

White-headed or white-crowned Lapwing (Vanellus albiceps) is a more West African species but also found in S and SW Tanzania at sandy river banks. Photo Per Holmen

Black-headed Lapwing (Vanellus tectus latifrons) is endemic in dry open areas in Eastern Kenya and Somalia. Meru National Park

Black-headed Lapwing  (Vanellus t.  tectus)  occurs in NW Kenya to Northern Uganda to West Africa. Photo Per Holmen, Lake Baringo

African wattled Lapwing (Vanellus senegallus) is wide spread in Africa in wetlands and adjacent grassland. Masai Mara

Senegal (lesser black-winged) Lapwing (Vanellus lugubris) is an uncommon resident and migrant to short grass plains or recently burnt areas in quite many countries in Africa. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Black-winged Lapwing(Vanellus melanopterus minor) is found on high elevation grassland locally from East to Southern Africa. Masai Mara

Crowned Lapwing Lapwing (Vanellus c. coronatus) is common on short grass from East to Southern Africa. They are excellent warners, here in warning pose.