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Red-wattled lapwings are large waders, about 35 cm long. The wings and back are light brown with a purple sheen, but head and chest and front part of neck are black. Prominently white patch runs between these two colours, from belly and tail, flanking the neck to the sides of crown. Short tail is tipped black. A red fleshy wattle in front of each eye, black-tipped red bill, and the long legs are yellow. In flight, prominent white wing bars formed by the white on the secondary coverts.
It usually keeps in pairs or trios in well-watered open country, ploughed fields, grazing land, and margins and dry beds of tanks and puddles.