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Species Guide
A photo of a Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
Eurasian Whimbrel

Eurasian Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus

The Eurasian Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, is a wader of considerable grace, belonging to the large family Scolopacidae. It is a bird of moderate size within the curlew genus, displaying a predominantly greyish brown plumage with a striking white back and rump, noted in certain subspecies. Its bill is a defining feature, long and curved with a distinctive kink, setting it apart from the smoothly curved beaks of its relatives.

Identification Tips

When observing the Eurasian Whimbrel, one should look for its smaller stature relative to larger curlews, its shorter, decurved bill, and the pronounced central crown stripe and strong supercilia. In flight, the white rump is a telltale sign, easily discernible against its greyish brown body.


The Eurasian Whimbrel is a bird of the tundra and Arctic moorlands, where it breeds. During migration and in its wintering grounds, it frequents coastal areas, showcasing its adaptability to various environments.


This species has a broad breeding range across subarctic Asia and Europe, extending as far south as Scotland. It is a migratory bird, wintering on coasts from Africa to South Asia and Australasia, and can be found in Ireland and the United Kingdom, with notable breeding populations in Scotland's Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides, Sutherland, and Caithness.


Outside of the breeding season, the Eurasian Whimbrel can be quite gregarious, often seen in flocks. It is a long-distance migrant, undertaking extensive journeys between its breeding and wintering grounds.

Song & Calls

The call of the Eurasian Whimbrel is a distinctive rippling whistle, which can extend into a trill when the bird is singing.


The breeding strategy of the Eurasian Whimbrel involves a bare scrape on the ground, typically on tundra or Arctic moorland. The species is known for its defensive behavior around the nesting area, going so far as to attack intruders, including humans, who venture too close.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Eurasian Whimbrel consists of probing soft mud for small invertebrates and picking off small crabs from the surface. Berries become a significant part of their diet before migration. They have also been observed consuming insects, such as blue tiger butterflies.

Conservation status

The Eurasian Whimbrel is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. It has shown resilience in the face of historical hunting pressures, but like many species, it faces challenges from climate change, habitat destruction, and susceptibility to Avian flu. It is protected under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds.

Eurasian Whimbrel Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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