I have a bit of a thing about curlews.


According to my bird book (Collins Bird Guide, 2nd Edition) the distinctive looking bird (Numenius Arquata) is 48-57cm long and its wingspan is 89-106cm. It is the largest wading bird and is a solitary creature. Although I usually see it wading around alone in the shallows on a receding tide, dipping its unmistakeably long bill into the mud as it searches for food, I have also seen it hidden in grass in the fields behind the pines.


The curlew is beautifully speckled when you can catch sight of it from near to, but at a distance it appears dull brown and becomes camouflaged against the drab marshland making it hard to spot.


The curlew flies with a slow, arc-ed glide and frequently calls as it takes off. However more often than not you can hear a curlew rather than see it. It is its musical voice that most appeals to me.


It’s call carries far across the marsh with a melancholy ‘cour –lii‘ or ‘cue-cue-cew‘ (is its call how it got its name?). The bird book tells me that it starts with drawling notes, merging into a distinctive rhythmic, rippling trill, ‘oo-ot oo-ot oo-eet trru-eel trrru-eel trrru-eel trru-uhl‘. I can hear the rising crescendo it in my head as I write that evocative interpretation.


I love the curlew’s call; it is the most like music of all birdsong: rhythmic, melodic and memorable.


2 thoughts on “Curlew

  1. soewnearth

    Goodness you are lucky to have musical curlews, here in Far North Queensland we have Bush Stone Curlews, which during the day a quiet unobtrusive birds but come the night time they sound like someone being murdered and when a group of them get together it sounds like gang warfare. imagine 10 of these at 4 am.


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