Curlew Numenius arquata   [Linnaeus, 1758]

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Order: Charadriiformes Family: Scolopacidae
BTO Codes: CU, CURLE EURING No: 5410
Number in Britain: 66 thousand Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status:
European: 2 Concern, most in Europe; Declining
Global: Near Threatened (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Migrant/Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
Subspecies: arquata recorded in Britain (of 3 subsp. in the world)
Length: 55 cm Wingspan: 90 cm Weight: M: 770 g   F: 1000 g    
Scientific name from: Gr.: neos=new + mene=moon (i.e. crescent-shaped) and L.: arcuatus=bow-shaped
World Distribution: BREEDS: n&c Eurasia, WINTERS: S Europe, S Asia, Africa & Indonesia
Habitat: Marsh, grassland, on migration mudflats
Diet: Omnivorous, though principally invertebrates located by touch
TitBit: The curlew's onomatopoeic call is one of the most evocative and distinctive of calls - "I take my gladness in the cry of the gannet/and the sound of the curlew instead of the laughter of men" are lines from the poem The Seafarer which exists in manuscript from AD 1000, but probably orginated much earlier.  
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos BTO ID Workshop

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: BirdTrends   
Regional Trends: Scotland   Wales   England   English Regions
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore    BBS Maps
British Population Size:
    Summer: 66 thousand Pairs in 2009
    Winter: 140 thousand individuals in 2004/05 - 2008/09
    First Record: Recorded in Medieval times [Fossil evidence from Devensian (last) glaciation, 10-120,000 yr ago]
    Latest Survey: Musgrove, A. et al. (2013) British Birds 106:64-100
    Conservation Status: AMBER because Species of European Concern, Recent Breeding Population Decline, Important Breeding Population Important Non-breeding Population
   Previous Assessments: 2002-2007 AMBER     1996-2001 AMBER  
   Races of Concern: arquata AMBER (Recent Decline)
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    Most frequent in: Moorland
    Also common in: Marsh
    And found in: Bog, Grass/Heath
Relative Frequency in Each Habitat:
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries  and summary map from Time to Fly (in pop-up windows)
European Population Size:
    Summer: 170 to 240 thousand pairs
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: WBD(II*), Bern(III), Bonn(II), AEWA, NERC (41)
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack
Results from the Winter Farmland Bird Survey

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 68 x 48 mm Egg Weight: 76.0 g (of which 6 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 56   (more would be welcome!)
Clutch Size: 4 eggs 3.72 ▒ 0.58 (2 - 6) N = 827
Incubation: 27- 29 days   by the: Female (occ. Male)
Fledging: 32 - 38days as: Precocial, downy
First Clutches Laid: 2 May (17 Apr - 31 May)
Number of Broods: 1
See trends in Breeding Productivity
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.736 ▒ 0.025       
Juvenile Survival: 0.470 (in First-Year)  
Age at First Breeding: 2 years Typical Lifespan: 5 years
Maximum Recorded Age: 32 years 7 months 0 days (set in 2011)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: F
Wing Length Sexually dimorphic (female much larger than male)
Male: 295.1 ▒ 10.6 280 - 310 mm, N =95
Female: 310.3 ▒ 10.0 290 - 325 mm, N =96
Weight Sexually dimorphic (female much larger than male)
Male: 716.0 ▒ 67.97 632.0 - 842.0 g , N =66
Female: 851.8 ▒ 89.04 710.0 - 985.0 g , N =62
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Eurasian Curlew
Gaelic: Guilbneach Welsh: Gylfinir
Danish: Storspove Dutch: Wulp
Finnish: Isokuovi French: Courlis cendrÚ
German: Gro▀er Brachvogel Hungarian: Nagy pˇling
Icelandic: Fj÷ruspˇi Irish: Crotach
Italian: Chiurlo Norwegian: Storspove
Polish: Kulik wielki Portuguese: Mašarico-real
Spanish: Zarapito real Swedish: Storspov
Local Names: Whaup
Collective Noun:Herd

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Nethersole-Thompson, D. & M. 1986 Waders, their breeding, haunts and watchers Poyser, London [598.6 NET]
   Cotter, G. 1990 The Curlew Shire Publications, Princes Risborough [Jour: S]
See Also:
Find scientific papers on Google Scholar or Scirus by clicking the icon
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides