Key facts

Scientific name: Numenius arquata

Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 66,000 pairs

Wintering birds: 140,000

Conservation status: Red

Length: 50 – 60 cm

Wingspan: 80 – 100 cm

Weight: 400 – 1400 g


In breeding season, curlews have pale brown heads and necks with black streaks. Their mantles have dark spots and their lower backs and rumps are white. Their underparts are white with darker streaks and their tails have dark brown bars.

Curlews have bills which are about 15 cm long with a downward curve. Their eyes are dark brown and legs and feet are grey.

Out of breeding season curlews have darker plumage which is greyer in colour. Juveniles look similar to adults with less streaking


Curlews build their nests in grass or sedge. The male makes a scrape in the ground which the female lines with fine grasses and feathers.

Curlews lay 4 olive-brown eggs with dark markings which are incubated by both sexes for 27-29 days. Chicks are precocial and both parents care for them until they fledge 32-40 days after hatching.


Curlews eat mainly crustaceans, worms, molluscs, seeds and berries. Occasionally they will also supplement their diet with small fish, amphibians, young birds and eggs.


Where to see them

Curlews can be seen all year round on the coastlines of the UK.


Timo Tschentscher/xeno-canto

Did you know?

In Scotland curlews are known as whaups.

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