Stone Curlew

Stone Curlew

Key facts

Scientific name: Burhinus oedicnemus

Status: Breeding summer visitor 

Breeding birds: 400 pairs

Conservation status: Amber

Family: Thick-knees

Length: 40 – 44 cm

Wingspan: 77 – 85 cm

Weight: 430 – 500 g


Stone curlews are pale brown with dark brown or buff steaks on the upperparts. They have a white belly and white breast with brown streaks.

Stone curlews are pale brown with dark brown and buff streaked upperparts and white or buff underparts with brown streaks on their breasts. Their uppertail is brown and their undertail is buff. They have brown and black wings with white wing bars.

Their crowns and napes are streaked with buff and brown and they have white or buff foreheads and throats. They have a dagger shaped bill which is yellow with a black tip. They have distinctive large yellow eyes which are adapted to foraging at night. Their legs and feet are yellow-green.

Male and female stone curlews look the same. Juveniles are similar but paler and browner in appearance and their wing bars are less conspicuous.


Stone curlews breed between April and August. The nest is a scape on the ground on bare stony soil with sparse vegetation, lined with small stones, shells, plant matter, or rabbit droppings.

Stone curlews lay 2-3 cream or buff eggs with dark brown marks which are incubated by both the female and the male for 26 days. Chicks leave the nest within 2 days and are fed by both parents until they fledge 36-42 days later.


Stone curlews forage between dusk and dawn and feed on insects, beetles, and worms. They will occasionally supplement their diet with small reptiles, frogs, and rodents. 

Stone Curlew

Where to see them

Stone curlews can be seen in the UK between March and October. Look out for them on bare, stony ground or short vegetation in Wiltshire and Norfolk.   


Gloria Ramello/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Stone curlews are not related to curlews but get their name from their nocturnal call which sounds like the call of the Eurasian curlew. They are also known as thick-knees due to their prominent tibiotarsal joints.

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