Bush Stone Curlew Fact File
The bush stone curlew is a long legged bird standing 55cm (21.7in) tall. These long legs are coloured yellow, grey or olive. At the end are three long toes which are slightly webbed.
Their back is covered with brown, rufous brown or grayish-brown feathers. The underside is white or buff. There is a streak of pale or white colours across the wing feathers. There is also a white stripe across the primaries. Their eye is yellow and large in size. A dark stripe runs under the eye and down the neck. Their short beak is black.
An average bush stone curlew weighs 860g (30.3oz) and their wingspan is 55-60cm (21.7-23.6in).
They will wander around and probe the soil with their beak for insects as well as catching prey above ground.
Most of their water requirement is taken from their food and as such they do not often need to drink free water.
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The bush stone curlew is a native of Australia, New Guinea and Indonesia.
In Australia they can be found across the majority of the country apart from the most arid interior regions. Their population is declining South and East of the dividing range.
The population in New Guinea and Indonesia is found in the Southern portion of Papua and is breeding.
Bush stone curlews make their home in open woodland, shrubland, grassland, mallee and mulga. They are able to live in almost any habitat which has sparse groundcover such as shrubs, grass and twigs. They may be found in inland areas along watercourses.
The bush stone curlew breeds from July to January. Typically they are monogamous and will mate for life.
An elaborate courtship takes place prior to mating and involves the pair facing one another with wings outstretched and stamping their feet up and down. Throughout this display they will make their loud call to the mate.
Their nest consists of a shallow scrape or may even be just a bare patch of soil. This nest is typically established in an open area such as a paddock or woodland where there is good visibility. In this spot they will place 2 eggs per clutch which are then incubated for 30 days. Both the mother and the father will work to incubate the eggs.
Once they have raised their first clutch the bush stone curlews will occasionally lay a second clutch in the same breeding season.
After hatching the chicks resemble small versions of the adults but they are covered in white down with brown stripes running from the head down across the back. This colouration helps them to avoid predators during the first 9 weeks of their life while they are unable to fly. For their protection the chicks are led to an area with fallen logs where they will blend in.
Parents will not feed the chick directly. Instead they teach them to hunt straight away by showing them food or placing food in front of them which they have caught.
They spend 3-9 months with the parents and reach sexual maturity at 2 years old.
Bush stone curlews are most recognizable due to their loud call. This is a drawn out ‘wer-loooo’ sound which carries far on still nights. One bush stone curlew will start the call and then the rest of their group will join in. This increases the intensity of the sound.
They are a nocturnal species which will emerge at night to feed and perform their other activities.
Most of their time is spent on the ground. In flight they are still rapid despite this occurring rarely.
Predators and Threats
Humans have affected their population through habitat clearance, increase in fire activity, removal of litter they use to hide and the introduction of exotic species including predators which hunt them and herd animals such as cattle which trample their eggs.
While the population is still stable their population is decreasing and they are at risk of extinction in the future. They are already under threat in parts of their range.
To evade predation they will lie motionless, flat out on the ground and attempt to blend in with the surrounding forest. They blend in due to their colouring making them hard to spot.
The bush stone curlew is one of two stone curlews found in Australia and one of ten found worldwide.
By John Robert McPherson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86729127
Alice Springs Desert Park. 2020. Bush Stone-Curlew. [online] Available at: <https://alicespringsdesertpark.com.au/connect-with-nature/animals/animals/bush-stone-curlew> [Accessed 11 June 2020].
NSW Environment, Energy and Science. 2020. Bush Stone-Curlew. [online] Available at:
<https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/native-animals/native-animal-facts/woodland-birds/bush-stone-curlew#:~:text=Breeding%20and%20life%20cycle&text=If%20breeding%20is%20successful%2C%20the,is%20shared%20by%20both%20parents.> [Accessed 11 June 2020].
BirdLife International. 2016. Burhinus grallarius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22693600A93415183. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22693600A93415183.en. Downloaded on 11 June 2020.
Coleman, P., 2018. Learning About Bush-Stone Curlews. 1st ed. [ebook] New South Wales: Nature Conservation Working Group, pp.19,20,25. Available at: <http://www.bushstonecurlew.com.au/wp content/uploads/2018/06/Learning-About-Bush-Stone-curlews-FINAL.pdf> [Accessed 11 June 2020].