Curlew Sandpiper

Rippling contact call: 'chirrip, chirrip, chirrip'.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average size: 
Breeding season: 
Non-breeding summer migrant
Clutch Size: 
3 to 4, usually 4
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
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What does it look like?

The Curlew Sandpiper is a small to medium-sized wader (migratory shorebird). It has a long, black bill with a down-curved end and black legs and feet. In its non-breeding plumage, it is grey-brown above, white below, with a white wing bar visible in flight. In breeding plumage, it is bright reddish brown below and the wings are barred black.

Similar species: 

The similar Red Knot, Calidris canutus, is larger and has a straight bill.

Where does it live?

The Curlew Sandpiper is a common summer migrant from north-eastern Siberia and Alaska, found in many Australian coastal sites and may also be seen inland in suitable habitats. It is most common in the far south-east and north-west of Australia. It is also found in Africa, across southern Asia to Indonesia and New Guinea, and in New Zealand.


The Curlew Sandpiper is found on intertidal mudflats of estuaries, lagoons, mangroves, as well as beaches, rocky shores and around lakes, dams and floodwaters. Its breeding habitat is the lowland tundra of Siberia.

Seasonal movements: 

The Curlew Sandpiper is a migratory species from the Northern Hemisphere, moving south to Australia, Africa, the Persian Gulf, India and South-east Asia. It arrives in September and returns in April. Some birds, usually juveniles, overwinter in Australia. According to the Australian Wader Studies Group (AWSG), a flagged (marked with a tag) Curlew Sandpiper was sighted in Sri Lanka on 20 August 2005. This is the first Australian wader ever to be reported from that country and suggests that the migration route of this species extends further west than originally thought.

What does it do?

The Curlew Sandpiper feeds on insects and their larvae when breeding. Otherwise, it feeds on small marine invertebrates, especially polychaete worms.


The Curlew Sandpiper breeds in the northern summer in Siberia and Alaska. The female builds the nest, incubates the eggs and raises the young alone. The exposed nest is a shallow depression on a ridge in the lowland tundra.

Living with us

All waders are affected by coastal development, including drainage and land-clearing in their preferred habitats.

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