Nature conservation

Threatened species

Eastern 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.
Scientific name: Numenius madagascariensis
Conservation status in NSW: Not listed
Commonwealth status: Critically Endangered
Profile last updated: 20 Mar 2023


The Eastern Curlew is a large wader (55-61 cm). They have a very long down-curved black bill which is pink at the base. They are streaked dark brown and buff above The chin and throat are whitish and there is a prominent white eye-ring; the iris is dark brown and they have a pale eyebrow. They are streaked dark brown and buff above with the feathers of the upper parts of the body brown, with blackish centres, and have broad pale rufous or olive-brown edges or notches. They have a long neck and long blue/grey legs.


Within Australia, the Eastern Curlew has a primarily coastal distribution. The species is found in all states, particularly the north, east, and south-east regions including Tasmania. Eastern Curlews are rarely recorded inland. In NSW the species occurs across the entire coast but is mainly found in estuaries such as the Hunter River, Port Stephens, Clarence River, Richmond River and ICOLLs of the south coast.

The Eastern Curlew breeds in Russia and north-eastern China but its distribution is poorly known. During the non-breeding season a few birds occur in southern Korea and China, but most spend the non-breeding season in north, east and south-east Australia.

Habitat and ecology

  • It generally occupies coastal lakes, inlets, bays and estuarine habitats, and in New South Wales is mainly found in intertidal mudflats and sometimes saltmarsh of sheltered coasts.
  • Occasionally, the species occurs on ocean beaches (often near estuaries), and coral reefs, rock platforms, or rocky islets
  • It forages in or at the edge of shallow water, occasionally on exposed algal mats or waterweed, or on banks of beach-cast seagrass or seaweed.
  • It roosts on sandy spits and islets, especially on dry beach sand near the high-water mark, and among coastal vegetation including low saltmarsh or mangroves. May also roost on wooden oyster leases or other similar structures
  • The Eastern Curlew is carnivorous, mainly eating crustaceans (including crabs, shrimps and prawns), small molluscs, as well as some insects.
  • The birds may delay breeding until three to four years of age. Within Australia, immature birds, which do not migrate, move northward in winter.

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

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known None
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanManning Shelf Known None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Known None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
OceanTwofold Shelf Known None
Ocean - Other StateNorthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Ocean - Other StateSouthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None