Not a rare bird this time, and not a particularly showy or exciting one either.  But a bird that I still enjoy watching and has some fairly interesting bits about it.

not a Whimbrel

Out on Skomer the Curlew used to be a pretty common breeding bird, now they are regular in attendance but decreasing in numbers and failing to get any chicks to any significant age.  The sheer numbers of raptors, gulls and crows makes it a dangerous place for a young fluffy curlew and I can see there being a time in the not too distant future when these birds are nothing but visitors to the island. This year I have been aware of just the one nest on Skomer, located far from public paths and defended loudly from passing people, gulls and pheasants!  But this nest has gone quiet recently so unless the defending bird has become suddenly shy (not unheard of as many birds try to pretend they don’t actually have a nest), there may not be a viable nest there any more…

For those who haven’t seen too many, or aren’t paying close enough attention, the Curlew is almost identical to the Whimbrel.  These birds have VERY similar plumages but can be told apart by a slight difference in size (Curlew are larger) and different head (Whimbrel tend to have a darker mask and shorter beak).  This takes a bit of practice however so learning their calls is very useful.  The Whimbrel is known as the seven whistler as its common call is seven short notes in succession, whereas the Curlew call is much more musical and bubbly- but trying to describe calls in text is always a bit dodgy so if there are any near where you are go and listen for yourself.

I will :)

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  1. Hi Lewis,

    Another very entertaining and informative post from you right there. Thanks to a dear friend of mine, I can inform you of another useful way in attempting to separate the Curlew from the Whimbrel. Simply put, if you can fit three head lengths of said bird, along its bill, it will be a Curlew. Whilst, if it is only possible, to fit approximately two head lengths along its bill, it will be a Whimbrel.

    Also, I hope you do not mind but I recently linked yours and Annette’s blogs to a post of mine.

    Best Wishes


  2. That is quite a good measure, better than my “looks longish- must be a curlew” approach! And any links are welcome, I don’t really publicise this blog much but it seems to attract a bit of attention every now and then :)

    Cheers for following,

    • That was always my response to the quandary of “is it a Curlew or is it a Whimbrel?”. Mind you, I have become hot on my bird sounds over the years so I can always resort to that lazy approach, should the bird in question call. I hope you will not be shying away from the publicity in future.




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