Stone-curlews (family Burhinidae)

Stone-curlews (family Burhinidae)

The Stone-curlews (family Burhinidae) are also commonly known as Thick-knees. The term Stone-curlew owes its origin to the broad similarities with true curlews (which are not closely related).

Burhinus oedicnemus
Eurasian Stone-curlew Chick (Burhinus oedicnemus)

Distribution / Range

These waders that are found worldwide within the tropical zone, with some species also breeding in temperate Europe and Australia.

Most species are sedentary, but the Stone Curlew is a summer migrant in the temperate European part of its range, wintering in Africa.

Most species prefer arid or semi-arid habitats.


They are medium to large waders with strong black or yellow black bills, large yellow eyes—which give them a reptilian appearance—and cryptic plumage.

Thick-knee refers to the prominent joints in the long yellow or greenish legs and apparently originated with a name coined in 1776 for B. oedicnemus, the Thick-kneed Bustard.

They are largely nocturnal, particularly when singing their loud wailing songs, which are reminiscent of true curlews.

Water Thick-knees (Burhinus vermiculatus)

Diet / Feeding

The diet consists mainly of insects and other invertebrates (= animals without internal skeleton, such as larvae, earthworms, millipedes, snails, spiders).

Larger species will also take lizards and even small mammals.

Index of Stone-Curlew

Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius, obsolete name Burhinus magnirostris)
Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius)
Peruvian Thick-knee (Burhinus superciliaris)
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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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