Eurasian Curlew, Numenius arquata

The Eurasian Curlew, (Numenius arquata), is a species of wading bird in the Scolopacidae family. It is one of the most widespread species of curlews, breeding across much of temperate Europe and Asia. This bird is commonly known as just “the Curlew” in Europe, and “the whaup” in Scotland.

The Eurasian Curlew is migratory over most of its range, wintering in Africa, southern Europe and south Asia. It is a rare vagrant to Nova Scotia and the Marianas. In the milder climates of its range it is present throughout the year. These areas include the mild regions of Ireland, Great Britain and adjacent European coasts.

This is the largest wading bird within its range, 20 to 24 inches in length, with a 35- to 42-inch wingspan, and a weight of 0.9 to 3.0 pounds. It is mainly grayish-brown in color with a white back and very long curved bill. Sexes are similar, but the bill is longer in the adult female. It is generally not possible to recognize the sex of a single individual, as even several ones as there is much variation. However, it is possible to tell a male and female mated pair apart.

The Whimbrel is the only similar species that is found over much of the Eurasian Curlew’s range. However, the Whimbrel is smaller and has a shorter bill with a kink rather than a smooth curve. Flying Eurasian Curlews may resemble a Bar-tailed Godwit in winter plumage, but that species is also smaller and has a slightly upturned bill. The feet in the Eurasian Curlew are also longer than those in the Godwit. The call of the Eurasian Curlew is a loud curloo-oo, for which the bird gets its name.

This is a highly gregarious (social) bird outside the breeding season. It feeds by probing soft mud for small invertebrates, but will also pick small crabs and earthworms off the surface if the opportunity arises.

The nest of this species is a bare scrape on taiga, meadow or similar terrain. The female lays three to six eggs in April or May. Incubation lasts about 30 days.

The Eurasian Curlew was formerly classified as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN. But following an evaluation that placed the bird rarer than previously believed, it was uplisted to Near Threatened in 2008. Despite noticeably declining numbers, the bird is still fairly common in many areas of its range. In Ireland, the breeding population is estimated to have declined by 86 percent in the last 30 years.

This is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.