Backyard Buddies
Bush stone-curlew

Photo: Max Herford

Bush stone-curlew

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The Bush stone-curlew lives on the ground and is mostly nocturnal. It is also called the Bush Thick-knee and is found all over Australia except in the most arid areas. It is unlikely to be mistaken for any other bird, with its long skinny legs and large yellow eyes with white eyebrows.

They have a distinctive call – a long drawn-out wail heard mainly at dusk or at night. If you didn’t know what it was, it could sound quite eerie. Most curlews form a breeding pair for life and they can live for up to 30 years, so it is quite the commitment.

Bush stone-curlews forage for their food on the ground amongst leaf litter and fallen branches and twigs. They feed at night and eat primarily insects but also seeds and small reptiles or rodents. They live in open forests and woodlands and the female lays her eggs on the ground – no nest required. She usually lays them in the shelter of a fallen log, thought to be a way of shielding them from foxes.

You will be very lucky if you ever witness their courtship behaviour. They stamp their feet with their wings outstretched, their tail upright and their neck stretched slightly forward while calling loudly. This can last for up to an hour and is repeated until a female shows some interest.

Their main threats are habitat loss from land clearing and feral predators such as foxes. Removal of fallen wood for firewood is also becoming a problem as the curlews use it for camouflage to avoid predators and it is home to the insects they eat. They rely on camouflage as their main defence and when threatened, will freeze or crouch down to avoid detection.

They are pretty hard to spot as their colouring blends in with the bush, especially at dusk and evening when they are most active and at the greatest threat from predators.

Their range has dramatically reduced and, once widespread, the Bush stone-curlew is now found only in isolated pockets in some states.

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”BYB shows that people can make a positive difference to conservation efforts in Australia. Learn, explore and love your bit of wilderness.“

Michele – National Parks Ranger, NSW

Photo: OEH