This is the biggest wader you can see in Europe. With its long down curved bill and massive appearance it is easy to identify - but remember that a Whimbrel is about four fifths the size of a Curlew. The lovely liquid 'cooor-lee' call is a clincher.
Curlews breed in temperate and Northern parts of Europe and Asia - just overlapping with the Southern part of the Whimbrel's range. Farmland, pasture or marshland is where it breeds and it needs damp areas to probe with its biggest asset - its bill. Birds may winter inland and many stay in Britain but Curlews also winter to the far South of Africa, top the Maldives, Sri Lanka and the Far East. Most of the wintering birds in that travel furthest end up in muddy estuaries or creeks.
Until a few years ago this species was spreading South and East in England onto farmland. However recent changes in farming practice have reversed this trend but there are still almost 50,000 pairs breeding in Britain and Ireland. This represents about a third of the European breeding population.
A massive brown wader with a very long down-turned bill.
Length 650 mm Closed wing 300 mm Weight 850 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead