Numenius arquata - Eurasian Curlew

Phylum: Chordata - Class: Aves - Order: Charadriiformes - Family: Scolopacidae

Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata


Easily recognised by their long bluish legs and down-turned bills, Eurasian Curlews have mottled brown and grey plumage. Males and females are similar in appearance, but the females are larger than the males. Also known as Common Curlews (or simply as Curlews) these large shore birds have white wedges on their rumps, visible from below when they are in flight.

This large wader, 50 to 60cm in length and with a wingspan of typically 90cm, has a lifespan of about five years.

Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata, southern England


Curlews can still be seen around most of Britain's coastline.

In some southern European countries, Eurasian Curlews are seen mainly as migrants, but in Britain and Ireland they not only nest (often in heathland sites) in spring and early summer but also remain in coastal areas to overwinter. Sadly, the number of Curlews recorded in Britain has fallen substantially in recent decades; the decline is generally thought to be due increased predation and to habitat loss caused by modern agricultural practices.


Curlews on the ground amongst long tussock vegetation, and usually there is a single clutch of four eggs. The young hatch after about four weeks and are fledged about five to six weeks later. Once the young can fly, adults and young birds leave their upland breeding sites and move to coastal locations.


Curlews eat worms, crustaceans and shrimps, which they detect in muddy estuary waters using their sensitive probing bills. They also feed on aquatic invertebrates on freshwater lake shores.


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by David Kelly.

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