Crowned lapwings have sandy-brown sides of the face, neck, upper breast and upperparts. The rest of the underparts are white, with a blackish band between the brown breast and white belly. The forehead is black, extending back above the eye to the nape. This is separated from the black crown by a white band which totally circles the head – creating the distinctive ‘target-like’ crown pattern that gives this species its name. Eye-colour is yellow or orange-brown and the bill is red with a black tip. The legs and feet are orange-red.
This common and familiar species is found in a wide range of grassy areas. It prefers open areas with short grass or bare ground, and has adapted to urban areas where grass-mowing in parks, sports fields, and open road verges creates habitat for this bird. It is very tolerant of human activity, although it spends a lot of time mobbing humans and dogs who venture near the nest site.
These birds are most active around dusk.
Its diet consists mainly of insects and larvae particularly termites, ants, beetles and crickets.
Crowned lapwings breed mainly in late winter and early spring – often in newly burnt veld. The nest is a shallow scrape in the ground, typically in very short grassland or bare ground. The juveniles are reminiscent of wind-up toys, they are very fast when disturbed, running quickly with a jerky, clockwork motion.