Stone-curlew

Burhinus oedicnemus

40-44cm

Appearance

Some distinctive features of this large wader include its lengthy yellow legs, its big head, large yellow eye, and the stumpy black-tipped yellow bill. The plumage is a dark-streaked sandy-brown with white stripes on the face, and the wings have black and white bars. The pattern on the wings is slightly more defined in the male. Sexes are similar though the wing pattern of male has more contrast than that of the female; juveniles resemble adults but their markings are more subtle.

Habitat

In Britain the species is found mostly in the Breckland of Norfolk and Suffolk and around Salisbury Plain. Breeding territory is sparse, stony ground, particularly where there is a foundation of chalk in the soil. Short, natural grassland areas are ideal, though it has adapted to breed on farmland under suitable circumstances. Stays in similar areas for winter.

Character

Often feeds in groups at dusk and forms flocks during winter. This is a timid dry-country wader who shows most activity at night-time; the camouflaged plumage is effective. May hold itself in upright stance, but when investigative or on the run, the back is hunched.

Food

Most feeding is done at night. Diet includes earthworms, beetles, earwigs, spiders and woodlice.

Breeding

Nesting begins in the region during April. Female usually lays 2 eggs, which both adults incubate for 24-26 days. Hatchlings are covered in a layer of down and though they're able to depart the nest, parents feed them until they're a minimum of half-sized. Flight is possible after about 36-42 days.

Population

British breeding birds spend winter in countries around the Mediterranean; number of breeding pairs in Britain exceeds 350.

Observation Tips

Difficult to find in daylight and the camouflage is very strong, so it's best to listen for calls at dusk and then search from a distance with binoculars so as not to disturb these nervous birds. For more assured viewing, Breckland reserves are promising territories.

Voice

Has a haunting wail that sounds like 'coo-leee', heard mostly at dusk and during the night.
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