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Bush Stone-curlew

Burhinus grallarius


The bush stone-curlew, aka bush thick-knee, is a large, slim, mainly nocturnal, ground-dwelling bird that's endemic to Australia. Although related to oystercatchers, avocets and plovers, this is a terrestrial predator filling an ecological niche similar to that of the roadrunners of North America. Curlews specialise in hunting small grassland animals - frogs, spiders, insects, molluscs, crustaceans, snakes, lizards and small mammals are all taken. Curlews also nest on the ground, and that makes them particularly vulnerable. This species is classified as endangered in NSW and Victoria. They range throughout most of Australia and were formerly quite common, but have declined in numbers through habitat loss and predation by foxes and feral cats. Other states are reasonably secure. PS: See video links in notes.


Curlews have a broad habitat preference - open forest, eucalyptus woodland, rainforest edges, grassy plains, arid scrubland and along inland watercourses. They frequent open areas like golf courses and parkland as well. This spotting was at the entrance of a service building, at the Metroplex on Gateway estate, Murarrie, Brisbane. A wetland area is adjacent to this complex, although I reckon this bird would be just as happy in the car park!


I have worked in this area for over 15 years and have documented dozens of species at this location, but this is the first time I have ever seen a curlew on this estate. And it certainly hasn't been for the lack of looking either! The last photo in this set is where my story began, as I entered the building this morning at 5AM. This bird was determined to get inside, so as I was leaving for the day I had to leave a conspicuous note warning colleagues not to let him in. It made a loud and raspy "hissing" sound at me when I got too close, and then dropped its wings as part of the threat display before running off a short distance! When I returned later in the day, a friend had taken some more photos of the bird trying to enter via a different door (first 5 images). Was it besotted with it's own reflection perhaps? Check out my mate's video. Many thanks, Ben Koeleman.... ............... PS: I'm sure there are many Australians who would not recognise a curlew if they saw one. They might recognise their call though. Curlews have the most eerie cry that no doubt has terrified many locals in the dead of night, and every time I hear them calling I chuckle to myself in sheer delight ;) .... And here's a good video of a threat display. This is the sound that my spotting was making to me (from 1:18 mins)....

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34 Comments (1–25)

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Thanks, Marek :)

Marek Koszorek
Marek Koszorek 3 years ago

Kudos Neil 😀

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Many thanks, James.

James McNair
James McNair 3 years ago

Congrats Neil

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Thanks for your comment, Muckpuk. I'm so glad you watched the videos. You have to see that threat display to believe it!

Muckpuk 3 years ago

Hahaha I just listened to his threat sound. AMAZING! Don't want to hear that at night no for sure!
Congratulations on your SOTW

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Many thanks, Dan. It certainly was an unexpected experience!

Dan Doucette
Dan Doucette 3 years ago

What a neat experience! Congrats Neil!

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Many thanks, Tukup. An unusual setting for an unusual bird! It certainly is unique.

Tukup 3 years ago

Congratulations Neil. Well deserved. Great photos in unusual setting.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Thanks, everyone. I appreciate the congrats and glad you like the notes. They fill in all the gaps! Will pass on your congrats, Mark :)

Ornithoptera80 3 years ago

Congrats, great notes!

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway 3 years ago

Aha! I thought he must have a plan hanging around that door. When you see him again offer my congrats.

Brian38 3 years ago

Congratulations, Neil.

SukanyaDatta 3 years ago

Congratulations, Neil. Loved the spottings and especially your notes.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Thanks, Jae :)

Jae 3 years ago

Congratulations, Neil. A well deserved SOTW.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Thanks, Zlatan. I was still half asleep when I walked into this spotting. I'm grateful to my friend who took photos later in the day. Far better than I could manage at 5am.

Zlatan Celebic
Zlatan Celebic 3 years ago

Congrats Neil; it was a great spotting and the story!

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Many thanks to you and the rangers who voted for my spotting, Michael. I'm honoured! :-)

MichaelS 3 years ago

Hi Neil,

Congratulations! Your bush stone-curlew spotting has been voted Spotting of the Week! Thank you for sharing such detailed notes on your encounter with this unique bird species in an urban environment! The Project Noah community looks forward to seeing your next nature discovery.

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Thanks for the nomination, Machi. Fingers crossed :)

Machi 3 years ago

Your spotting has been nominated for the Spotting of the Week. The winner will be chosen by the Project Noah Rangers based on a combination of factors including: uniqueness of the shot, status of the organism (for example, rare or endangered), quality of the information provided in the habitat and description sections. There is a subjective element, of course; the spotting with the highest number of Ranger votes is chosen. Congratulations on being nominated!

Neil Ross
Neil Ross 3 years ago

Me too, Mark. This city slicker could very well have rellies in Nimbin too!

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway 3 years ago

I just love a stoned curlew.

Neil Ross
Spotted by
Neil Ross

Murarrie, Queensland, Australia

Spotted on Feb 24, 2021
Submitted on Feb 24, 2021

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