Eastern curlew | Redland City Council

Scientific name: Numenius madagascariensis

Other names: Far Eastern Curlew


  • National: Critically Engangered (EPBCA 1999)
  • Queensland: Endangered (NCA 1992

What does it look like?

The eastern curlew is a large wader species with a very long down-curved bill. The female bill is generally longer than the male’s, averaging around 185mm. The bill is dark brown with a pinkish base and legs and feet are long and blue-grey.

It is a bulky bird, weighing approximately 900 grams. The eastern curlew is dark-streaked and has a long, heavily streaked dark-brown neck and whitish chin and throat. The flight feathers are barred in colour. Juveniles resemble adults, but are paler with finer breast streaking and initially have much shorter bills.

Where are they found?

The eastern curlew is Australia’s largest migratory bird. Its distribution spreads from Russia in summer to Australia over winter.

In Australia, the eastern curlew primarily inhabits the north-east and the south, including Tasmania. This bird relies on two habitats – one within the tidal zone for feeding and one above it – including sheltered coasts, swamps, bays and lagoons. During high tide, the birds move to saltpans, sand dunes and other open areas where they roost above the high water.

What is threatening them?

  • Intertidal habitat loss
  • Human disturbances
  • Invasive species
  • Pollution and degradation of habitat
  • Rising water levels.


The eastern curlew is protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. It is an offence to hurt or interfere with the eastern curlew in any other way than when accepted by the Act.

Redland City Council manages environmental pests throughout the Redlands to minimise their impact on native ecosystems and birds such as the eastern curlew.

Did you know...?

Eastern curlews have a mournful, haunting yet melodic call.

Eastern curlew chicks attempt their first migration when they are only six to eight weeks old, after the adult birds have already departed. The chicks inherit an instinctive sense of distance and direction required to navigate their migratory paths.

The diet of the species varies according to the season and location. At the breeding ground, the eastern curlew preys on insects and amphipods while in non-breeding areas, it mainly feeds on marine invertebrates such as crabs, small molluscs, crustaceans and marine worms. During migration, these birds predominantly eat berries.

How you can help

Restrain your dogs in habitat areas and be aware of the effects of beach/sand dune driving.

Report your sighting

If you have seen or suspect you have seen a Eastern curlew, please report it to Atlas of Living Australia.