Did you know?

A Whimbrel that was banded in New South Wales was re-captured on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia.

The commonest call is a far-carrying rippling 'bibibibibibibi'.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average size: 
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Breeding season: 
May to August
Clutch Size: 
Three to four.
28 days
Nestling Period: 
40 days
Conservation Status
Associated Plants
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
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What does it look like?

The Whimbrel is a medium-sized curlew, which is mainly streaked brown, with twin dark streaks along the crown and bill. The bill is long and slightly de-curved (curved downwards), with a pink lower base. The legs and neck are long. The body is white below, with coarsely streaked brown upperparts. In flight, the light-coloured rump and streaked tail is obvious. Whimbrels feed in small groups and roost in large flocks, often with other waders.

Similar species: 

The Whimbrel is larger and bulkier than the Little Curlew, N. minutus, which has a shorter less curved bill. The Eastern Curlew, N. madagascariensis, is the largest curlew, with a much longer bill and legs.

Where does it live?

Whimbrels are common across northern Australia and uncommon to rare further south. They breed in central Siberia to Iceland. The subspecies variegatus is the one mainly found in Australia and also the Bay of Bengal through to Melanesia, Micronesia and to New Zealand in small numbers.


Whimbrels are found mainly on the coast, on tidal and estaurine mudflats, especially near mangroves. They are sometimes found on beaches and rocky shores.

Seasonal movements: 

Whimbrels are migratory, moving north from Australia to breed in the northern hemisphere, leaving the north and north east coasts by late April. On return to Australia, they move down the coast of east Asia, leaving the breeding areas in July, along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, arriving in the north of Australia from August to October, then moving southwards along the east coast. Small numbers over-winter in Australia and there is some local movement.

What does it do?

Whimbrels feed on intertidal mudflats by day and night, on worms, crustaceans and occasionally fish and nestling birds. They run nimbly and take prey by probing with their long curved bills in the mud or pecking briskly at the surface.


The migratory Whimbrels breed widely in the Arctic Circle, on drier and higher ground than the Eastern Curlew. The males display over their territory, rising high in the air with rapidly vibrating wingbeats, then spiralling down again. The eggs and chicks have cryptic colouring, speckled to be hidden in their shallow nest among the grass and other vegetation.

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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