Beach Stone-curlew - profile

Indicative distribution

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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. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
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Scientific name: Esacus magnirostris
Conservation status in NSW: Critically Endangered
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 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.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

CMA CMA sub-region Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Hawkesbury-NepeanHawkesbury/Nepean - marine zone Predicted
Hawkesbury-NepeanPittwater Predicted
Hunter-Central RiversHunter/Central Rivers - marine zone Known None
Hunter-Central RiversKaruah Manning Known None
Hunter-Central RiversMacleay Hastings Known None
Northern RiversClarence Lowlands Known within 2 km of coast
Northern RiversCoffs Coast & Escarpment Known within 2 km of coast
Northern RiversMacleay Hastings Known within 2 km of coast
Northern RiversMurwillumbah (Qld - Southeast Hills and Ranges) Known within 2 km of coast
Northern RiversNorthern Rivers - marine zone Known None
Northern RiversRichmond - Tweed (Qld - Scenic Rim) (Part A) Known within 2 km of coast
Northern RiversYuraygir Known within 2 km of coast
Southern RiversBateman Predicted None
Southern RiversIllawarra Known None
Southern RiversJervis Known None
Southern RiversSouth East Coastal Plains Predicted
Southern RiversSouthern Rivers - marine zone Known None
Sydney MetroPittwater (Part A) Known
Sydney MetroPittwater (Part B) Known
Sydney MetroSydney Cataract Known
Sydney MetroSydney Metro - marine zone Known None