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Sociable Lapwing

Vanellus gregarius


The Sociable Lapwing is the rarest and most threatened of all birds that live on the Eurasian steppes – the vast grassland areas that stretch from eastern Ukraine to the Altai Mountains.

The lapwing was given its name following observations of the species gathering in large flocks during migration. The Sociable Lapwing is part of the Lapwing genus Vanellus, which diverged from all other species of birds 28 million years ago! The Sociable Lapwing is a steppe specialist. Their wandering nature may have evolved in order to find the short vegetation they prefer to nest in, which is associated with migratory grazing animals. Individuals have been recorded in many unexpected places well outside their normal range including the Maldives and even Essex in the UK! In Europe, the population size is estimated to have decreased by 80% or more in the last three generations and by 25% in just one generation. A global decline of more than 50% is still precautionary inferred for the past three generations, with an ever larger decline predicted for the next three. A major threat to this species is the conversion of steppe into arable cultivation, and illegal hunting along the species’ migratory route and in its wintering grounds. The concentration of nests in heavily grazed areas in the vicinity of villages may have been under threat from human disturbance and trampling from livestock. An international species action plan was published in 2004 as a conservation action. Intensive research at breeding sites is occurring and this species is legally protected in some countries but this may not be enforced.

  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Charadriidae
  • Population: 11,200
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 23-30cm

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.21 (?)
ED Score: 10.47 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


This species breeds in Kazakhstan and Russia and disperses through to Kyrgzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, to key wintering sites in Sudan, Pakistan and India

Habitat and Ecology

This is a migratory species, breeding semi-colonially in groups of 3-20 pairs. They migrate south in August and depart the wintering grounds in March, arriving on its breeding range in April. They breed on grassland steppes. They use dry wasteland, cultivated, ploughed and stubble fields. Their association with grazing animals is very strong and they often lay their eggs in scrapes lined with dry dung.

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Conservation Actions

For each key category of conservation action, we calculated a conservation attention score based on expert information. In this graph, a higher score means the action is being carried out more intensively over more of the species range. The colour shows how important each action is considered to be for the conservation of this species.

Engaging stakeholders
Addressing threats
Status of knowledge
Management plan
Capacity building
Behaviour change
Awareness raising
  Score: 100 means the activity occurs at high level across more than 75% of the species range
Very Low

Overall Conservation Attention

We combined all of the expert information on conservation actions to calculate an overall conservation attention score for this species. Please help us to reach our goal of establishing dedicated conservation attention at “High” levels for all EDGE species.

Very Low Low Medium High

More information

Recent studies have grouped all possible conservation activities for any species into nine key categories (Washington et. al 2015). For each action, we asked experts for each species to assess the extent to which that action is being carried out and how much of the species’ range that action occurs in. For each action we used these two pieces of information to calculate the conservation attention score per action. A score of 100 means that the action is being carried out to a high level across at least 75% of the species range. We then combined the scores for all actions into an overall conservation attention score for the species. The experts also judged how important each category was to the conservation of that particular species.

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Droughts Crops Livestock Hunting Ecosystem changes Agriculture

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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