While authorities are generally agreed that there about 24 species of lapwing, classifications within the subfamily remain confused. At one extreme, some recognized no less than 19 different genera; other have gone as far as to group all the lapwings into the single genus, Vanellus. Current opinion appears to be that a more moderate position is appropriate.
These long-legged waders mostly have strongly patterned plumage. Although the most familiar northern hemisphere lapwing, Northern Lapwing, has a wispy crest, only two other species do so. Red or yellow facial wattles are a more typical decoration.