Curlew (Numenius arquata)


[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Numenius arquata | [UK] Curlew | [FR] Courlis cendre | [DE] Grosser Brachvogel | [ES] Zarapito Real | [NL] Wulp


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

Large greyish brown curleo with long bill and plain head pattern.
Head, neck, breast and upperparts buffy brown with dark streaking, although plumage variable. Pale underwing, white rump and lower back, belly white, flanks streaked.
Female averages larger, especially with longer bill. Non-breeding adult has breast and upperparts grey brown and underparts whiter.
Race orientalis usually paler, with underwing coverts and axillaries largely unmarked, lower rump may be more barred and inner wing paler, but considerable overlap.

Listen to the sound of Curlew


Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 80 cm wingspan max.: 100 cm
size min.: 50 cm size max.: 57 cm
incubation min.: 27 days incubation max.: 29 days
fledging min.: 32 days fledging max.: 29 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : Central, West


Breeds on peat bogs, fens, upland moors, damp grassland, grassy or boggy open areas in forest, extensive farmland, swampy and dry heathland, dune valleys and coastal marshes. increasing numbers breed in meadows.
In non-breeding period, chiefly on muddy coasts, bays and estuaries, also regularly on muddy shores of inland lakes and rivers.
During migration, also found on wet grassland and arable fields. Males are more likely to feed in inland grassland than females.


Egg laying from April to May. pair bond is Monogamous. High degree of site fidelity. Nest is typically built in the open, often in grass or sedge cover. 4 eggs are laid in a single brood, incubation 28 days, by both sexes.
Chick pale ochraceous buff above clouded with blackish brown, black crown and creamy buff on belly. Both parents care for young. Age of first breeding 2 years.

Feeding habits

Usually diet includes annelids, molluscs, arthropods, crustaceans, berries and seeds. Occasionally vertebrates, including amphibians, lizards, young birds, small rodents and small fish. Chiefly terrestrial insects and eartworms, especially in summer.
Feeds by pecking, jabbing or deep probing in mud or damp soil. Occasionally takes food from conspecifics or other wader species.
Some birds territorial on wintering grounds, others feed gregariously. Long-billed females tend to forage more on intertidal flats, feeding on molluscs, crabs and polychaetes, while shorter-billed males tend to feed more on cultivated grassland.


This widespread species remains common in many parts of its range, and determining population trends is problematic. Nevertheless, declines have been recorded in several key populations and overall a moderately rapid global decline is estimated. As a result, the species has been uplisted to Near Threatened.
Curlew status Near Threatened


Mostly migratory; some birds resident in west of range. Winters in Europe, and widely on coasts (locally inland) in Africa (south to Cape Province), Madagascar, Arabia, and southern Asia. Banc d?Arguin (Mauritania) perhaps most usual southern limit for west and central European birds. Autumn passage of west European (including Fenno-Scandian) birds begins late June: adults arrive at North Sea estuaries (Wash and Wadden Sea) and commence moult; main arrivals in July-August. Birds leave breeding grounds in Alsace (France), western Germany, and Britain by mid-July; in FSU, main departures July-August. Many birds from Fenno-Scandia, Baltic States, and adjacent parts of Russia stay on European coasts until April-May. Main arrivals in northern Russia at end of April. Many 1st-year birds remain in winter quarters.

Distribution map

Curlew distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *