ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Stone Curlew { Birds of Europe}

Updated on August 2, 2015

Stone curlew

Uploaded to commons via Smowmanradio
Uploaded to commons via Smowmanradio | Source


The stone curlew Burhinus oedicnemus belongs to the order of birds known as the Charadriiformes and the family Burhnidae within that Order. The genus name of Burinus derives from the Greek bous indicating a bullox+ rhinos meaning nose {bill}. The specific name of oedicnemus also derives from the Greek oideo indicating a swelling + kneme -knee. It is also referred to as the Eurasian Thick Knee/Stone curlew.

In the UK { 2014} they are placed on the Amber list of Conservation concern { Declines of between 25-50% } over the last forty years or so. There is an estimated 350 pairs { summer}. They are classed as migrant breeders. { Sorce the BTO}.

In Europe they are of 3 concern most not in Europe vulnerable. The total European population is estimated at between 43,000 and 68,000 pairs. The populations vary from country to country ,here are a few examples.

Austria between 11-13 breeding pairs,{BP} Bulgaria 130-250,BP Croatia 30-50,BP, France 5,000-9,000 BP, Greece 300-500 BP, Portugal 1,000-5,000 BP, Spain 30,000-40,000 BP and Ukraine 100-150 BP.{ Source Birdlife International}

They breed in lowlands of Europe,central and southern Asia. They winter south to central Africa. Open habitats with sparse vegetation.

Burhinus bistriatus { {American}

Uploaded to commons by Dudubot.
Uploaded to commons by Dudubot. | Source

What are the Burhinidae ?

The stone curlews also referred as 'Thick knees' are quaint birds consisting of nine species within the family that occur throughout the tropical and temperate regions of the world, with two species being found in Australia. They are classified as wading {shore} birds,however, most species prefer arid,or semi arid habitats.

They are medium to large birds with strong bills, large yellow eyes { which give them a reptilian appearance} and mottled plumage. Thick Knees refers to the prominent joints in their long legs and apparently the name was coined in 1776 for the species under review. The term stone curlew derives to the broad similarities with the curlews { to which they are not closely related}.

They are largely nocturnal particularly when calling their loud 'wild wailing' notes. Most species are sedentary but the species under review is a summer migrate in temperate European parts of its range wintering in Africa.

In America they are represented by the Double-striped thick knee Burhinus bistriatus . It is a resident breeder in central and south America and a rare vagrant in the USA.

Stone Curlew and habitat

Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland Richard Crossley
Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland Richard Crossley | Source

Description of the Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus

Thisbird is 40-45 cm long {16-18 inches} and weighs between 370-450 grams. {13-16 ounces}.

there is a pale stripe above and below the eyes which are large and yellow and indeed it was once referred to as the ' Goggle eye Plover'. The bill is relatively short but stout ,yellowish at the base darker at the tip. The chin and throat are white,the front of the neck and breast very light brown streaked with blackish brown and the lower parts are white streaked with brown..

The upper feathers are long,dark and streaked with sandy brown.. A broad pale band along the wings in flight,light and dark bands on pale inner wings with a white spot on black outer wings. The tail is paler. The head is outstretched in flight. The white bars on the wings are also conspicuous in flight. The legs are long and of a pale yellow colour. Both sexes are very similar.

Courtesy of calin hoder Dobrogea Spring. Standard You Tube License

General background and historical information

In the UK the Stone curlew was once referred to as the 'Norfolk Plover' from its abundance in that county. It is rarely seen away from unenclosed country. Silent and quiet by day for the most part,but at night active and noisy,especially on moonlit nights, travelling long distances if necessary, to obtain its nightly drink of water. Its food consists chiefly of insects, beetles, grubs,and earwigs,also snails,slugs,worms and small vertebrates,such as mice and lizards when the opportunity arises.

Its note is a loud whistle with a tremelo and Charles Kingsley ,compared the cry of this bird to a weird laugh. In the evening when the birds come alive and are at their most active,and their loud shrill cries uttered as they fly around,once gave the bird the alternative name of the 'whistling plover'.

When pursued they have a curious habit of running along for some distance with their necks outstretched ,and then lying with their necks outstretched relying on their excellent camouflage for safety.

It is generally thought to be an intermediary species between the Bustards and the Plovers,having several popints in common with each. Apart from the colouring they have no relationship to the true curlews,hence the name is misleading. Owing to its extreme shyness it is difficult to spot,even for those who are acquainted with its habits.

Today they are considered to be a 'strange', rare summer visitor to southern England. In the UK its strongholds are in Wiltshire,around the Salisbury plain and in Breckland,Norfolk. They arrive in March and depart in August/September.

The Stone curlew is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species. Numbers have risen over the past fifteen years or so due to partnerships being created between wildlife conservation bodies and land owners to identify and protect breeding sites. The stone curlew breeds on semi-natural grassland,chalk downland,grass heaths and on agricultural land. It is associated with free draining stony soils and nesting occurs on stony ground,particularly with short patchy vegetation. On semi-natural grassland grazed by sheep and rabbits can provide a short sward suitable for their nesting requirements.

Stone curlew on the ground are hard to see


Nest ,eggs and young

The nest of this species is a mere depression in the ground on some sandy or stony ground. The female will deposit her two eggs which are of a pale clay colour spotted and streaked with blue grey and dark brown.

The bird sneaks off the eggs in a crouching position,the moment any danger comes within sight of the nest. The eggs are well camouflaged and they and the resulting young are very difficult to find. The eggs blend in perfectly with the stony terrain on which they are so often laid.

The eggs are incubated for about twenty four to twenty six days by both parents. the chicks are capable of running round soon after they hatch. They become fully fledged in a further thirty six to forty two days. Should a brood be lost a replacement clutch is often laid.

The nestlings are entirely clothed being a sandy grey colour above delicately mottled with pale brown. The Under parts are a buffy white. On each side of the head,and down the crown, a black stripe and a similar one down the back bone and on each side of the body. The legs are blue grey.

The chicks improve their excellent camouflage by freezing, flattened on the ground when disturbed or threatened.

Chick of the stone curlew

Taken near Rhuama, Israel
Taken near Rhuama, Israel | Source

Threats to the Stone curlew { UK }

This rare summer visitor has seen a decline in numbers of over 85%,over the last fifty years or so, up to the 1990's. There has been a partial recovery.

The main causes of their overall decline are thought to be ;loss of semi-natural habitat through conversion to arable land and a decrease in grazing on remaining grassland. better crop husbandry has reduced the number of bare patches suitable for nesting and both eggs and chicks are vulnerable to heavy agricultural machinery.

Illegal egg collecting is a serious threat and disturbance from recreational activities are also thought to be a problem for this species. Predation by foxes has also increased in some areas inflicting heavy losses on chicks and eggs.

Wet springs and summers prompt grass growth and this makes it difficult for the birds to find insects on the bare ground,and the demise of set-a-side, where farmland is left un-cropped ,has a significant impact on their breeding success.

Conservation efforts being made are having the positive result of a partial recovery, but much more needs to be done on behalf of the species. I can only hope that they are successful for the English countryside would be a poorer place without them

The large eye of the Stone curlew

The countryside would be a poorer place without these quaint birds.
The countryside would be a poorer place without these quaint birds. | Source


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, your very welcome glad you enjoyed. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Such a lovely curlew! Thanks so much for the time involved in educating us about this wonderful bird.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello Devika ,Yes they sure are beautiful birds. Thank you for votes much appreciated. Best wishes to you.


      Hi thank you for your visit and for your kind comments. Best wishes to you.


      Hi the eyes are certainly distinctive and so large because they are mainly nocturnal. Thank you for your vote up. Best wishes top you.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image


      5 years ago from Orange, Texas

      I love their eyes - they're huge. What a pretty bird. Thanks for sharing. It was very informative - voted up.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      5 years ago from Norfolk

      As usual a beautiful hub with loads of info and some lovely images. Very well done.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Beautiful birds! An unusual bird and only a few in Croatia. Interesting and useful. Voted up!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)