The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas.
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to see geographic restrictions).
The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Esacus magnirostris
31 Jul 2009
Profile last updated:
07 Sep 2012
The Beach Stone-curlew is a large, heavy-set wader (up to 56 cm in body length, and with a wingspan of up to 1.1 m), with a large-headed appearance, emphasised by its massive bill, strong legs and a short tail. Adults have largely grey-brown upperparts with a distinctive black-and-white striped face and shoulder-patch. The throat and breast are a paler grey and the belly white. The wings are broad and long, mostly pale grey with dark leading and trailing edges to the innerwing and a boldly black-and-white outerwing. The eyes are yellow and there is a yellow patch at the base of the bill.
Beach Stone-curlews are usually seen alone or in pairs, but sometimes occur in small groups of up to six birds. They are mainly active at dawn, dusk and at night, but birds are often seen when they shift or move about sedately during the day. Call at night, breeding birds give a harsh, wailing weer-loo call, which is slightly higher pitched and more shrill than that of the related Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius.
In Australia, the Beach Stone-curlew occupies coastlines from about Point Cloates in Western Australia, across northern and north-eastern Australia south to north-eastern NSW, with occasional vagrants to south-eastern NSW and Victoria. In NSW, the species occurs regularly to about the Manning River, and the small population of north-eastern NSW is at the limit of the normal range of the species in Australia. Surveys in 2000 put the NSW popluation at a minimum of 13 adult birds.
Outside Australia, the species also occurs in south-eastern Asia, from the Malay Peninsula through Indonesia and southern New Guinea, east to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
Habitat and ecology
- Beach Stone-curlews are found exclusively along the coast, on a wide range of beaches, islands, reefs and in estuaries, and may often be seen at the edges of or near mangroves. They forage in the intertidal zone of beaches and estuaries, on islands, flats, banks and spits of sand, mud, gravel or rock, and among mangroves.
Beach Stone-curlews breed above the littoral zone, at the backs of beaches, or on sandbanks and islands, among low vegetation of grass, scattered shrubs or low trees; also among open mangroves.
- Beach Stone-curlews are usually seen alone or in pairs, but sometimes occur in small groups. Birds forage by stalking slowly like a heron or with quicker dashes after prey.
- The diet consists of crabs and other marine invertebrates.
- They are mainly active at dawn, dusk and at night, but birds are often seen when they shift or move about sedately during the day. Less strictly nocturnal than the related Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius).
- In NSW, clutches have been recorded from early October to late March, but elsewhere in temperate Australia, breeding has been recorded from September. Their nests are just a shallow scrape in sand or gravel, above the tidal zone at the backs of beaches, or on sandbanks and islands or among open mangroves.
- Only one egg is laid, but birds will re-lay after the failure of a breeding attempt. Both parents defend the nest and care for the young. The young are precocial but appear not to be independent until they are 7-12 months old.
Regional distribution and habitat
Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.
- Much littoral and estuarine habitat in north-eastern NSW has been and continues to be destroyed or degraded by urban and industrial coastal development and associated increasese in human populations.
- Human recreational activities, including recreational use of 4WD vehicles, boating and walking of dogs, can cause significant disturbance to the species, including desertion of nests, and make remaining areas of habitat less suitable or unsuitable for Beach Stone-curlews. The pressures of human activity are a significant threat given the popularity of the region for people, both residents and tourists, overlapping the strictly coastal habitat of the Beach Stone-curlew.
- Predation of eggs, chicks or even adults, particularly when nesting, by feral or introduced predators, especially Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and feral Pigs (Sus scrofa) and feral or uncontrolled domestic dogs and, possibly, cats.
- The total number of adult Beach Stone-curlews in NSW is extemely low, with surveys in 2000 counting 13 adults at eight sites, plus one fledgling and two chicks.
- High incidence of nest inundation when nesting close to the high-water mark; causes loss of nesting attempt and reduces reproductive success.
- Knowledge of breeding pair nesting locations each year is required in order to protect the population accordingly.
A targeted strategy for managing this species has been developed under the Saving Our Species program; click here
for details. For more information on the Saving Our Species program click here
Activities to assist this species
- Control domestic dogs and cats, and avoid taking dogs to known sites for the species. Desexing of domestic dogs and cats can assist with controlling the establishment of feral populations of the two animals.
- Undertake control programs for introduced feral predators, especially Foxes and feral dogs and cats.
- Where new urban development is allowed close to known sites for the Beach Stone-curlew, consider restricting or prohibiting ownership of dogs and cats.
- During the breeding season, fence known nesting sites (including use of electric fencing where appropriate), to deter feral and introduced predators, domestic cats and dogs and human disturbance. Also provide signage to alert people to the presence of, and risk of disturbance to, Beach Stone-curlews.
- Protect undisturbed beaches, islands, reefs, estuarine intertidal sandflats and mudflats from human disturbances and development.
- Educate local communities and visitors about Beach Stone-curlews and the threats to the species in NSW, and engage local communities and visitors in the survey, monitoring and protection of known sites of Beach Stone-curlews.
- Increase the public awareness of Beach Stone-curlews, especially targeting beach users and highlighting the impact of dogs, vehicles, and human disturbance on the species, and develop a code of conduct for all beach users to reduce human disturbance on Beach Stone-curlews.
- Control weeds that reduce site quality at nesting, sheltering and foraging sites of Beach Stone-curlews.
- Protect foraging, roosting and nesting sites and develop and implement threat management strategies for priority sites to prevent inappropriate developments or actions that may harm Beach Stone-curlews.
- Monitor key habitats, especially breeding sites to identify threats to breeding success, conduct research on the species and survey the NSW population regularly to identify trends in its population and distribution in NSW.
- Clancy, G.P. (1986) Observations on nesting Beach Thick-knees Burhinus neglectus at Red Rock, New South Wales. Corella 10(4): 114-118.
- Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (Eds) (1993) Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2: Raptors to Lapwings. (Oxford University Press, Melbourne)
- Pringle, J.D. (1987) The Shorebirds of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney)
- Rohweder, D.A. (2003) A population census of Beach Stone-curlews Esacus neglectus in New South Wales. Australian Field Ornithology 20: 8-16.
- Smith, P. (1991) The Biology and Management of Waders in NSW. Species Management Report Number 9. (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville)
Known or predicted
Geographic restrictions region