• Name: Curlew | Numenius arquata
  • Size: 80-100cm wingspan
  • Life span: 11 years  
  • Diet: Curlews survive on a diet of worms, shellfish and shrimps which they find in the ground through the sensitive touch of their long curved bill.
  • Reproduction: Curlews are monogamous; nesting completely in the open or amongst grass. Nests are a large depression on the ground; the male makes crude scrapes while the female collects material for lining the nest, usually fine grass and some feathers.  Females can lay 2-6 eggs and incubating duties are shared  
  • When to see: Throughout the year (particularly in Summer)
  • Where to see: Curlew can occur around the whole UK coastline with the largest concentrations found in estuaries.  Here in Scilly you will find them around the coast on beaches but also in fields, i.e. Porth Hellick, St Mary's | Gugh | Appletree Bay, Tresco in Scilly. 
  • Conservation status: ICUN Redlist | Near threatened (Global).  Birds of Conservation Concern 4 | Red (UK)
  • Population Trend: Decreasing
  • Threats:  Human activity/disturbance, climate change and loss of habitat.
  • Fun Fact: The end of a Curlew’s bill is sensitive and acts independently; like tweezers, which enables it to feel around in the mud for prey.  The bill has a lot of strengthening structures inside it to prevent it from breaking. However, this does mean that it can’t put its tongue down the bill to help grab and swallow.  To compensate for this, curlews are very adept at throwing their prey up in the air before catching and eating it.

Description: The Curlew is a large mottled brown and grey wading bird, with long, bluish legs and a long, downward curving bill. Females are larger than males but have the same colouring meaning it can be hard to tell them apart. In flight curlews have a white wedge on the rump. 

They have a haunting call which is incredibly evocative; the Eurasian or Common Curlew is often just referred to as "Curlew" in the UK. 

The Curlew is often and easily confused with the slightly smaller but similar looking Whimbrel.

Curlews are migratory, but are present all year in the milder climate of the British Isles and the adjacent European coasts.

The Curlew has undergone a 30% population crash in the last decade due to a number of reasons including predation and loss of habitat for breeding and rearing young.

Want to know more?  As with many species wading birds are sensitive indicators of the health of our environment; loss of habitat and environmental changes can impact populations in very short periods of time.  If you want to help us find out more regarding the distribution of this species please report and record your sightings (with pictures) via the general iRecord App.

Bonus fact! The genus name Numenius refers to the curlew's bill, meaning 'new moon' in reference to the sickle-shaped bill.


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With thanks to Amy Lewis for the Curlew image