Bird Families

Curlew bird


Great curlew (Numenius arquata) - a large graceful sandpiper on high legs weighing up to 1.2 kg with a wingspan of about a meter and a very long, bent down beak, reaching 18 cm in adults. It can go deep into the water and swim.


Feeds on big curlew insects: in the steppe, it destroys Orthoptera en masse, also hunts beetles, sometimes lizards and even mouse-like rodents. In the forest zone, this sandpiper willingly feeds on worms, molluscs and even blueberries and cloudberries.


  • European curlew (Numenius arquata arquata)
  • Siberian curlew (Numenius arquata orientalis)

Features and habitat

The mass of the largest individuals bigcurlew reaches 1 kg, the body length ranges from 50 to 65 cm, the wingspan of the bird is up to 100 cm. Its feature is the presence of a long beak, which is more curved in females than in males.

The color of curlew feathers is predominantly gray, white and beige-brown. The curlew bird lives mainly in Central and Northern Europe, often found in Asia (most of them in Kyrgyzstan and in the eastern region of Lake Baikal).

Generally curlew - wading bird, therefore, the favorite nesting places for these birds are concentrated around swamps, peat bogs and similar sources of water. Curlew baby differs from its large brother in a short beak and smaller body size. Its habitat previously stretched from the southern strip of the West Siberian taiga to Kazakhstan and the sands of the Volga and Urals.

In winter, the birds flew to Mediterranean countries. At the moment, most bird watchers are considered almost extinct from the face of the planet. The Siberian curlew nests right in the middle of the meadows along the Siberian rivers.

The nests of these small birds are usually located in small holes slightly sunk into the ground, in which they lay their eggs.

The sizes of the average curlew differ from the size of a large curlew... Their body length does not exceed 50 cm, the wingspan is no more than 75-80 cm. The weight of males reaches 500 grams, females - up to 650 grams. Unlike the large curlew, they have a black-brown crown, separated by a white stripe. The eyebrows are light, the beak is shorter.

It inhabits mainly swamps in the northern part of Europe, often nests in young forests and in places of fire, but without fail near water.

Thin-billed curlew outwardly almost indistinguishable from a large one, with the exception of a more modest size and a less curved shortened beak.

Inhabits swampy meadows, mixed birch-aspen forests and extensive peat bogs. Wintering was seen in Morocco and surrounding countries.

At the moment it is considered one of the rarest birds in the whole world. Their color differs from large representatives of the species by the presence of black heart-shaped variegated spots on the chest, the voice is similar, but slightly higher and thinner.

Eskimo Curlew was once one of the most common waders in America and nesting in northern Canada and Alaska.

However, due to the active hunt for curlews, the bird was almost completely exterminated and today it is considered almost extinct, at least it has not been seen by humans for about half a century.

The extinction of the population was also influenced by the intensive plowing of the lands of North America, as a result of which the birds lost their usual food.

Far Eastern curlew is considered the largest sandpiper inhabiting the territory of Russia. Its wingspan reaches one meter, its legs are long, the back is predominantly dark brown in color, the abdominal region is lighter.

Uppertail is dark, beak is long and curved downward. Breeds mainly in Kamchatka and in the Amur region. Also lives in the region of Northeast China and North Korea.

Due to the fact that these birds built nests in open areas, they were exterminated by hunters, stray dogs and foxes. According to some estimates, today there are less than 40,000 of them in the world.

The nature and lifestyle of the curlew

Curlew - sandpiperleading a social lifestyle. During the flights, which they prefer to spend at night, the birds organize themselves into huge flocks. At wintering sites, they usually accumulate in large numbers.

Most of the day they are busy looking for food, during which they walk imposingly across the open area, now and then launching their long and curved beak into the sand or silt.

Unlike many other birds, the rhythm of life of curlews does not depend on the change of day and night, but on the ebb and flow. When the water leaves, the birds begin to intensively seek food, during high tide they rest, uttering melodic trills, similar to the sounds of a flute.

Curlews prefer to winter in hot countries with a Mediterranean climate, in our latitudes birds appear in the spring (usually in late March - mid-April).

In the event that one individual spotted a creeping predator, it must warn its relatives by issuing a series of short sounds. Trills of some species resemble the neigh of a foal.

Birds spend the night in secluded places (in dense grass and coastal thickets), inaccessible to humans and their enemies, such as various dogs and foxes. Curlews rarely lead a sedentary lifestyle, preferring seasonal migrations from place to place.

Reproduction and life expectancy

As mentioned above in curlew description, these waders are social birds, and therefore nest in flocks and form pairs. Nests are small holes in the ground, covered with dried grass, feathers and small twigs.

Birds begin to lay eggs around the middle of spring; in one clutch, the female lays up to four eggs. Just before mating, the males lure the females with a special current flight. Chicks are born already with plumage and after a while they go in search of prey together with the father of the family (male).

Until the chicks are able to fly well enough, they spend most of their time hiding from prying eyes and predators in dense grass or coastal thickets.

After five to six weeks of this lifestyle, the chicks begin to fly independently and find food for themselves.

Since the main species of birds are on the verge of extinction or are considered completely extinct, they can be seen only at a photo or pictures of curlew in local history museums or in the vastness of the network.

Their lifespan is also questionable, with most bird watchers citing a figure between 10 and 20 years. However, it is known for certain about individuals who have reached the age of thirty.


The long curlew beak curved downwards is an excellent tool for collecting shellfish, snails and worms in the sea sand and silt. The large curlew practically does not need sight during the hunt, since it finds prey with the help of the sensitive tip of its beak. In wintering grounds, curlews swim in shallow water, catching fry and shrimps from the water. Birds examine the seaweed washed up on the shore, extracting coastal crabs from them. With its long beak, the curlew captures the prey and then shakes its head, moving it deep into the throat. At nesting sites in the interior of the continent, Great Curlews feed on insects and their larvae, earthworms, molluscs and small frogs. In summer, birds gather beetles in fields and pastures.


Even 60 years ago, the curlew was considered a typical inhabitant of coastal swamps and lowlands. However, during this time, significant changes occurred: the area of ​​natural habitats of the species decreased so much that birds were forced to nest in other places - in meadows and pastures. But the ability of this species to adapt to new conditions is not unlimited, especially since the intensive economic activity of humans, associated with the widespread use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, displaces the bird from these places. In spring and summer, curlews live in the inner part of the continent, and in autumn they fly to wintering places on the sea coast. Despite the fact that there is enough food off the coast of Central Europe during this period, large curlews fly to the southern coast and to North Africa.


The curlew usually nests in open marshy areas, in meadows and pastures, sometimes in forest glades. The male chooses the place for the nest: he occupies the territory, which is reported by expressive flight, which is accompanied by his loud cry. He attracts a female that appeared close by with a kind of dance.

When the female descends to the ground, the male circles around her, spreading out in front of her, until she accepts his courtship and mating occurs. Curlew's nest is a small hole lined with grass and other plants. The female lays four eggs in the depression with an interval of 1-3 days, which are incubated by both birds.

During the nesting period, curlews behave very carefully. Soon after hatching of chicks, the whole family migrates to more protected places. Curlews bravely protect chicks from enemies.


The motley plumage of the curlew perfectly disguises it against the background of the surrounding vegetation. Curlew is very careful, And hardly noticing a person, he immediately flies away, issuing a melodic "kui-i". The presence of a bird is most often evidenced only by sounds - characteristic trills, reminiscent of the music of a flute. Especially loud sounds of the male song sometimes remind the neighing of a foal. The Great Curlew differs from other birds in its characteristic beak shape.


  • During the migration period, curlews unite in large flocks. They fly at night, then in the dark you can only hear their cries.
  • The rhythm of life of birds living on the sea coast depends on the ebb and flow, which are periodically repeated, and not on the change of day and night. During high tides, birds rest, and during low tide, they search for food.
  • The beak of the female curlew is 5 cm longer than the beak of the male, so the partners can feed together on the same coastal area without competing with each other, since they search for food at different depths.


Flight: the male marks his territory and attracts the female with a zigzag flight.

Eggs: 4 olive-greenish speckled eggs are incubated by both parents alternately for 30 days.

Plumage: variegated, brown. The protective coloration serves as a camouflage function, since curlews nest among low marsh and meadow vegetation.

Beak: female beak is about 5 cm longer than male beak. The sensitive end of the beak is used for individuals of both sexes to search for prey.

- The habitat of the Great Curlew


The Great Curlew lives in Europe and North Asia. The nesting area is the territory from Ireland in the west to Siberia in the east, the Balkan Peninsula and the Caspian Sea in the south. The bird hibernates in Western and Southern Europe, North Africa and southern Asia.


The development of industry and tourism threaten the existence of the marshes. Losing their natural nesting sites, curlews are forced to breed in meadows.


The bird, which will be discussed in this article, has a beautiful color. The curlew is a pretty cute creature with brownish-gray feathers that retain their color throughout the year. They can have large black-brown spots, as well as buffy or light edges. The top of the head as well as the front of the back is slightly darker than the nape. On the back of the back there are pure white feathers with rich brown spots.

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There is a light stripe above the eyes. The underside of the body is colored ocher. Longitudinal stripes are located on the chest, neck and sides. In some individuals, a triangle pattern can be observed on the side of the belly. The chin and lower tail feathers are completely white. The tail is variegated. The tip of the beak is black, the base is brownish, the mandible is reddish. Legs are dark leaden or grayish. Since the feathers on the wings are white, the bird looks light in flight.

Young curlew birds are more buffy and also have a very short beak compared to adults. Chicks are off-white or yellow, with dark stripes on the back. On the lower part of the body, streaks are narrow, longitudinal.

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Big curlew

Numenius arquata (L., 1758)

Order Charadriiformes - Charadriiformes Family Snipe - Scolopacidae

Category and status... Category 3. Rare breeding and passing species.

Short description... A very large sandpiper with a long curved beak. The general color is gray, with a slight tan. shade. The loin and lower back are white. The underwing coverts are white, with slight streaks. There are no dark longitudinal stripes on the back of the back. The dark streaks of the feathers on the underside of the body are narrow.

Habitats and biology... Breeds in meadows of various types in river floodplains, but avoids very dry varieties. It settles in vast, mainly reed bogs, but it also occurs in clean field bogs, often with floatation. It is a relatively rare species in vast bogged bogs and is found here only in areas of at least small open meadows. Arrives in mid-April and starts nesting almost immediately. Already in the first decade of May, its full clutches are noted, consisting of 3-4 ocher-greenish eggs. The birds incubate the clutch alternately for about 30 days. Chicks appear in June and already at the end of July - beginning of August, at the age of about 1.5 months, they rise "on the wing". Before departure, it gathers in large flocks of up to 500 birds and more, occupying the most optimal stations for the species - vast wet meadows with a large number of invertebrates (mainly locusts and spiders). Flies off for wintering in the second half of August, although some individuals can occur until mid-September and even early October.

Spread... Previously, it was a common species everywhere. At present, during periods of migration, it is ubiquitous along the estuaries of rivers, as well as along their valleys with vast open meadows, although its abundance is not high here. Well-defined flyways of this species exist along the Angara [3-4], Irkut and Goloustnaya rivers. On the nesting site, a high density is characteristic of the Sayan bogs, where the main part of this species is concentrated in the Irkutsk region [3, b]. Common for nesting in the floodplain of the river. Lower Tunguska (from the village of Khamakar to the village of Nakanno). Common view on the Bratsk reservoir and VUOBO within the forest-steppe zone [5, b]. Settles in the floodplain of the river. Chuna and its tributaries, but is generally rare here. More common in the floodplain of the river. Where (the Cis-Baikal depression) and the middle part of the Lena basin (Kachugsky and southern Zhigalovsky regions). Individual pairs in suitable places in the Predbay-Kalya, especially in the forest-steppe zone, live everywhere.

Number... The highest population density and number are noted in the Sayan bogs. The nesting density here reaches 4.0 pairs / km2, and the total number before the breeding season is 300-500 pairs (3, 6]. In the floodplain of the Kuda River, it occurs in small numbers, with a total abundance of 0.5 to 1.0 pairs per 10 km of the route In the middle part of the Lena basin (Kachugsky and the southern part of Zhigalovsky district) the density increases.Here its abundance ranges from 1.5 to 5.0 pairs / km2. The total number in the region at the beginning of the breeding season can reach 1000-1500 individuals.

Limiting factors... Typical for semi-aquatic birds: short-term flooding of meadows as a result of heavy and prolonged (from 3-4 days to a week) rains, fluctuations in the water level during the breeding season, the impact of birds and land predators. To a much greater extent than other species, it suffers from the agricultural activities of people, especially early haymaking and grazing with the use of a large number of dogs. The spring burning of vegetation causes great damage to this species, which nests very early. Of great importance is the preservation of typical habitats that are used for arable land, hayfields and grazing.

Taken and necessary security measures... It is protected in the places of mass nesting in the Sayan region on the territory of the Zulumaysky and Kireysky reserves. The main protection measures relate to the regulation of agricultural production and the prohibition of livestock grazing using dogs. It is necessary to prohibit their loose keeping during the nesting period and regulate hay making in areas of increased bird nesting density [b]. The preservation of its natural habitats and the cessation of spring burns in river floodplains are of great importance for maintaining the abundance of the species. The influence of autumn hunting is insignificant, since by its opening the main part of the birds have already flown away for wintering. To exclude unintentional shooting of individual individuals, it is necessary to carry out a mass explanatory work among the population with the publication of colorful booklets that allow to correctly identify the Great Curlew.

Sources of information: 1 - Vodopyanov, 1988, 2-Gagina, 1961, 3 - Durnev et al., 1996, 4-Lipin et al., 1968, 5 - Maleev, Popov, 2007, 6 - data of Yu.I. Melnikov.

Compiled by: Yu.I. Melnikov, V.G. Maleev

Artist: D.V. Gumpylova.

Dimensions (edit)

The Great Curlew is a large bird, which is clear from the name. On average, the weight of individuals ranges from 0.6-1 kg. The body length from beak to tail is from 50 to 60 cm. The wingspan is large - from 80 to 100 cm. Despite the fact that males and females do not differ in color, gender can be determined by size. Females are usually larger than males. In addition, they have a longer beak. Juveniles also have a rather short beak compared to adult birds.

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Thin-billed curlew

  1. In terms of its external characteristics, it practically does not differ from large individuals. The only difference is the size, it is slightly smaller. Also, the beak is shortened and does not bend much.
  2. Prefers to settle in meadows with swampy soil. Individuals can be found in peat bogs, as well as in birch or aspen forests. When it's time to go for the winter, they fly to Morocco or nearby regions.
  3. Today, it is this species of curlews that is considered the rarest, disappearing, therefore it is seriously protected. A distinctive characteristic is that there are black marks on the body of the birds.


The habitat of the curlew bird is Central and Northern Europe. In addition, representatives of this species are found in the British Isles. Curlews can be seen on the Asian continent. Here they inhabit vast territories starting in Kyrgyzstan and ending in Manchuria and near Lake Baikal.

The curlew is a migratory bird that migrates in winter to the Mediterranean, Africa or the Atlantic coast. Representatives of this species prefer swampy areas. It is in such areas that they build their nests. In the winter season, they migrate inland and look for flooded fields, meadows and watts in order to build nests there.

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The curlew bird is an adherent of a social lifestyle. Numerous flocks are not uncommon. Individuals arrive at nesting sites in pairs, singly or as part of a flock. In central Russia, their nesting period begins in April, in the steppe regions - in March, in the northern regions - in May. Leading begins almost immediately after arrival. The male rises upward, as if on a ladder, emits a sonorous whistle and then glides over the ground. This movement is repeated several times.

Nesting takes place near water. Curlews live in pairs or flocks. Despite their peacefulness and social lifestyle, they are ready to guard the borders of the settlement to the last. They are characterized by nesting conservatism. This means that individuals return to the same territories every year.


Curlew nest (you can see a photo of a bird in this article) is represented by a shallow hole, covered with grass or located openly. At the bottom there is a lining of dry leaves, debris of branches, and other natural material. In a clutch, as a rule, from 2 to 4 eggs. They are colored green, blue, olive or grayish. On them you can see spots of brown and brown color. Eggs vary in size, and spots can vary in intensity and density.

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The clutch is incubated by two adults, alternately replacing each other for 28 or 30 days. They are very careful. If they feel danger, they begin to circle around a predator or a person, while emitting alarming cries. They attack smaller opponents, for example other birds, and drive them out of the nesting area. At the 6th week of life, birds begin to fly, after which flocks with grown chicks form.

Notes (edit)

  1. Boehme R.L., Flint V.E.
    A five-language dictionary of animal names. Birds. Latin, Russian, English, German, French / Under total. ed. acad. V.E.Sokolova. - M .: Rus. lang., "RUSSO", 1994. - P. 85. - 2030 copies. - ISBN 5-200-00643-0.
  2. Buttonquail, plovers, seedsnipe, sandpipers: F. Gill & D. Donsker (Eds). // IOC World Bird List (v 8.1). - 2020.- DOI: 10.14344 / IOC.ML.8.1. (Retrieved June 24, 2018).
  3. 12Numenius borealis
    The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Long-billed curlew

Another species of birds belongs to the genus of curlews - long-billed. Its representatives are slightly different from the great curlews. They live in North America. Coastal areas are chosen for nesting. They spend winter by the water. Chicks are born in pastures, nests are hidden in the grass. The beak of the representatives of this species is considered very long and is second in size only to the beak of the Far Eastern curlew. In the female, it is slightly larger, rounder at the base, the bend is better expressed at the tip.

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Little curlew

  1. There are many different members of the family, for example, the baby curlew. These birds differ from large individuals in small dimensions, as well as in their habitat (they prefer to settle in the Urals, in Kazakhstan).
  2. When it gets cold in the country of residence, the birds gather and leave the region. They go to countries with a mild climate, found off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Bird watchers who study these birds believe that the babies are on the verge of extinction.
  3. When little curlews begin to build nests, they choose open areas. They are preparing to reproduce offspring in the meadows near the Siberian rivers. The dwellings are located in small holes specially dug for this purpose.


Currently, bird defenders are alarmed that the curlew population is declining rapidly. This is facilitated by the drainage of swamps, excess moisture in the lowlands, the development of vast lands in order to create arable land, as well as the destruction of the natural habitat of birds for subsistence farming. All this leads to a decrease in the number of territories suitable for nesting.

As mentioned earlier, adult birds return to the same place. And if sexually mature individuals are able to defend themselves or at least hide from the enemy, then walks in arable land can be dangerous for chicks. Machining of fields, as a rule, begins before the chicks get on the wing. They try to hide in the thickets of grass, as they cannot fly away from the dangerous territory. As a result, they die, because they have nowhere to hide.

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There is a solution to this problem. Cut the grass in parallel rows, leaving strips of tall grass between them. They would be ideal hiding places for curlew chicks.