Little Curlew

Did you know?

Near Darwin, Little Curlews may gather in really large flocks on playing fields, in gardens and on airports when they first arrive from the north, dispersing when the Wet Season begins.

The usual call in flight is a soft 'tchew, tchew, tchew' raising slightly in pitch; also, harsh alarm calls.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
May to August
Clutch Size: 
23 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Little Curlew is the smallest curlew and has a long thin neck. The small head has a short, slender bill, downcurved at the tip and pink on the underside.There is a dark crown, with a pale buff brow line over large eyes. The body is mainly warm brown, heavily marked, with a streaked buff breast and light underbody. The legs are medium length. When alarmed, they either stand tall and erect or crouch in the grass. The female is slightly larger than the male. It is also called Little Whimbrel and Pygmy or Baby Curlew.

Similar species: 

This is the smallest curlew and is similar to but much smaller than theWhimbrelN. phaeopus, with a bill that is slimmer, shorter and less curved. It is similar in size to the Pacific Golden PloverPluvialis fulva, but slimmer and with longer legs. Little Curlews are often found in mixed flocks with other waders.

Where does it live?

The Little Curlew is widespread in the north of Australia and scattered elsewhere. It is an irregular visitor to New Zealand and Tasmania. It breeds in Siberia and is seen on passage through Mongolia, China, Japan, Indonesia and New Guinea.


Little Curlews may gather in large flocks on coastal and inland grasslands and black soil plains in northern Australia, near swamps and flooded areas. They also feed on playing fields, paddocks and urban lawns.

Seasonal movements: 

Little Curlews breed in Siberia, moving south to the non-breeding areas in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. They are dispersive in Australia, probably in response to rainfall. They arrive in the north from mid to late September, then disperse, leaving again mainly in early April.

What does it do?

The Little Curlew eats mainly insects, as well as seeds and berries, walking along slowly, picking and probing at the ground.


Little Curlews breed in Siberia, in open areas in birch woodlands, along valleys of small rivers. They nest in colonies, often near the nest of Golden Eagles. Males have display flights like other curlews, giving their distinctive calls. Both parents share incubation, in a nest in a shallow depression in the open, lined with grass.

Living with us

Threats on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (the migration route to Australia) include economic and social pressures such as wetland destruction and change, pollution and hunting.

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