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Species Guide
A photo of a Great Stone-curlew (Esacus recurvirostris)
Great Stone-curlew

Great Stone-curlew

Esacus recurvirostris

The Great Stone-curlew, also known as the Great Thick-knee, is a formidable wader, measuring between 49 to 55 centimeters in length. It boasts a robust bill, approximately 7 centimeters in length, with the lower mandible sharply angled, giving it a distinctive upturned appearance. Its plumage is an unmarked grey-brown on the upperparts and breast, transitioning to a paler, whitish hue on the remainder of the underparts. The facial pattern is a striking contrast of black and white, while the bill is black with a yellow base. The eyes of this bird are a vivid yellow, and the legs are a more subdued greenish-yellow. When in flight, the Great Stone-curlew reveals black and white flight feathers on the upperwing and a predominantly white underwing. Both sexes appear similar, though juveniles may be identified by their slightly lighter coloration.

Identification Tips

To identify the Great Stone-curlew, look for its large size, heavy build, and the unique upturned bill. The contrasting black and white facial pattern and bright yellow eyes are also key features. In flight, note the contrasting wing patterns with black and white on the upperwing and a mainly white underwing.


This species is inclined towards habitats such as gravel banks along rivers or expansive lakes, as well as coastal beaches.


The Great Stone-curlew is a resident breeder in the tropical regions of southern Asia, with its range extending from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka through to Bangladesh and into Southeast Asia.


The Great Stone-curlew exhibits a preference for nocturnal or crepuscular activity, akin to other members of the stone-curlew family. However, it is not uncommon to observe this bird foraging during daylight hours, where it moves with a slow, deliberate gait, interspersed with brief sprints. Known for its wariness, the Great Stone-curlew will often take flight well before an observer approaches, displaying powerful and somewhat rigid wingbeats.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the Great Stone-curlew consist of a plaintive, wailing whistle, most frequently emitted during the nocturnal hours.


Breeding behavior for this species involves laying a single egg within a simple scrape on open shingle, devoid of any nesting materials.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Great Stone-curlew is varied, including crabs, large insects, and other forms of animal prey.

Conservation status

The Great Stone-curlew is currently classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it faces threats that could lead to its vulnerability in the near future.

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Great Stone-curlews on Birda


More Stone-curlews, Thick-knees

A photo of a Double-striped Thick-knee (Burhinus bistriatus)

Double-striped Thick-knee

Burhinus bistriatus
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