Vanellinae are any of various crested plovers, family Charadriidae, noted for its slow, irregular wingbeat in flight and a shrill, wailing cry. Its length is 10–16 inches. They are a subfamily of medium-sized wading birds which also includes the plovers and dotterels. The Vanellinae are collectively called lapwings but also contain the ancient red-kneed dotterel. A lapwing can be thought of as a larger plover.
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 Vanellinae are still often called "plovers", and the reverse also applies, albeit more rarely, to some Charadriinae (the "true" plovers and dotterels).
In Europe, "lapwing" often refers specifically to the northern lapwing, the only member of this group to occur in most of the continent.
:''For genera sometimes split from ''Vanellus'', see there.''
While authorities generally agree that there about 25 species of Vanellinae, classifications within the subfamily remain confused. At one extreme, Peters recognised no less than 20 different genera for the birds listed in 2 genera here; other workers have gone so far as to group all the "true" lapwings (except the red-kneed dotterel) into the single genus ''Vanellus''. Current consensus favors a more moderate position, but it is unclear which genera to split. The ''Handbook of Birds of the World'' provisionally lumps all Vanellinae into ''Vanellus'' except the Red-kneed Dotterel, which is in the monotypic ''Erythrogonys''. Its plesiomorphic habitus resembles that of plovers, but details like the missing hallux (hind toe) are like those of lapwings: it is still not entirely clear whether it is better considered the basalmost plover or lapwing.〔Piersma & Wiersma (1996), Thomas ''et al.'' (2004)〕
Many coloration details of the red-kneed dotterel also occur here and there among the living members of the main lapwing clade. Its position as the most basal of the living Vanellinae or just immediately outside it thus means that their last common ancestor – or even the last common ancestor of plovers and lapwings – almost certainly was a plover-sized bird with a black crown and breast-band, a white feather patch at the wrist, no hallux, and a lipochromic (probably red) bill with a black tip. Its legs were most likely black or the color of the bill's base.〔Piersma & Wiersma (1996)〕
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