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  1. 138 Photo by Frank O'Connor
  2. 138_0 Bird on chicks photo by Frank O'Connor

Bush Stone-curlew

Burhinus grallarius


  • Colour: mostly grey-brown above, with bold black and rufous streaks. It has buff and white underparts with black streaks. It has large yellow eyes and long thin legs.
  • Distinctive feature: a prominent white eyebrow.
  • Young birds are similar in colour, but are generally paler.
  • Size: 54 – 59 cm.


  • Call: a drawn-out, mournful "wer-loooo", often heard at dusk and at night.
  • Diet: it eats insects and other arthropods, molluscs, small lizards, seeds and occasionally small mammals, which are taken from the ground at night.
  • Movement: usually sedentary, with some local movements when not breeding.
  • Breeding: one to three eggs are laid in a shallow scrape in the ground or on a small bare batch. Both adults incubate the eggs and care for the young. As a prelude to breeding, the species performs a courtship dance where multiple birds stand facing one another, bobbing and bowing to one another, then following one another about in a crouched posture.

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating
  • Calling
  • Feeding
  • Bird on chicks
  • Bird on eggs
  • Bird on nest
  • Bird feeding young

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

The effects of climate change may influence the timing of when Bush Stone-curlews start to breed and the duration of their breeding activities. Help scientists answer the question: "How are our animals, plants and ecosystems responding to climate change?" by recording the observations above.

When To Look

  • Breeding occurs between June and December in northern Australia, and August to January further south.
  • Young birds usually leave the nest within a day of hatching, but remain within 200 metres of the nest for several weeks

Where To Look

  • In open grassy forests and woodlands, particularly where there is fallen timber which they usually nest beside.
  • It occurs in many parts of mainland Australia, though generally not in many arid and semi-arid areas (especially in Western Australia, South Australia and western New South Wales) and in southern Victoria and south-eastern New South Wales.


Bush-stone curlew Occurence Map ALA



Marchant, S & Higgins PJ (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Vol. 2. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Pizzey G & Knight F 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Pringle JD 1987. The Shorebirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.

Schodde R & Tidemann SC (eds) 1990. Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds. Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.

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  1. What Else?

    • It is unlikely to be confused with any other bird in Australia.
    • Beach Stone-curlew (Esacus magnirostris): has a large bill and a more boldly marked face. It also lacks bold streaking on its body.
  1. Did You Know?

    The call recording is by David Stewart Naturesound

    Its courtship ritual may last for an hour or more at a time.

    It was once quite common in southern Australia but has declined in numbers because of loss of habitat through land clearing, and predation by foxes and feral cats.

    It is listed as Endangered in Victoria and New South Wales, and is Vulnerable in South Australia.

    Its wingspan is 82 – 105 cm.

  1. Listen to the Call