Saturday, 12 November 2016

Bird of the week - Curlew

The curlew is our largest wader with a very distinctive long down-curved bill.  Like last week's redshank, it is a bird that is usually difficult to approach closely.  This one seemed to be happy to let me follow it along the shoreline for several minutes.

Curlews nest in moorland and upland regions, mostly in Scotland and northern England, but come down to the coasts for the winter.

The population is in significant decline, especially in Ireland, Wales and southwest England, and the curlew is on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

The curlew is Numenius arquarta, numenius meaning new moon and arquarta bow-shaped, both presumably relating to the shape of its bill.  Thomas Bewick made this engraving for A History of British Birds (1832).

The curlew is one of several birds with an onomatopoeic call.  It has a similar name in French - Courlis cendré - cendré meaning ash (as in fire, not tree).  You can hear the curlew's call here.  In spring the males have a lovely bubbly song - listen here.  Curlew is one of the birds I see in my BBS square in Northumberland in May and June.

You can watch a BTO video on identification of curlew and whimbrel here.  Listen to the BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day on winter curlew here and spring curlew here.

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