Nature conservation

Threatened species

Curlew Sandpiper - 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: Calidris ferruginea
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Critically Endangered
Gazetted date: 09 Dec 2011
Profile last updated: 13 Oct 2021


The Curlew Sandpiper is a small (18-23 cm), highly-gregarious, migratory shorebird with a medium-length, down-curved bill and longish black legs. During most of their time in Australia, adult birds are in non-breeding plumage, which is a nondescript mottled grey above and paler below, with indistinct white eyebrows and a white rump. In flight there is a white line along the centre of the upper-wings. In breeding plumage the face and underparts are chestnut, and the upperparts are mottled chestnut and black. The down-curved bill distinguishes it from the other similar-sized sandpipers. Many other shorebirds of this size have similar colouration and are easily cofused with the Curlew Sandpiper, but they differ in bill shape, length or colour; leg colour or length; and some lack a white wing bar or white rump.


The Curlew Sandpiper is distributed around most of the Australian coastline (including Tasmania). It occurs along the entire coast of NSW, particularly in the Hunter Estuary, and sometimes in freshwater wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin. Inland records are probably mainly of birds pausing for a few days during migration.
The Curlew Sandpiper breeds in Siberia and migrates to Australia (as well as Africa and Asia) for the non-breeding period, arriving in Australia between August and November, and departing between March and mid-April.

Habitat and ecology

  • It generally occupies littoral and estuarine habitats, and in New South Wales is mainly found in intertidal mudflats of sheltered coasts.
  • It also occurs in non-tidal swamps, lakes and lagoons on the coast and sometimes inland.
  • 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 shingle, shell or sand beaches; spits or islets on the coast or in wetlands; or sometimes in salt marsh, among beach-cast seaweed, or on rocky shores.
  • Curlew Sandpipers are omnivorous, feeding on worms, molluscs, crustaceans, insects and some seeds.
  • Birds breed at 2 years of age and the oldest recorded bird is 19 years old. Most birds caught in Australia are between 3 and 5 years 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

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Brigalow Belt SouthNarrandool Known None
Broken Hill ComplexBarrier Range Known None
Channel CountryBulloo Known None
Channel CountryCentral Depression Predicted None
Cobar PeneplainLachlan Plains Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsBogan-Macquarie Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsGreat Darling Anabranch Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsMenindee Predicted None
Darling Riverine PlainsWilcannia Plains Known None
Mulga LandsParoo-Darling Sands Predicted None
New England TablelandsGlenn Innes-Guyra Basalts Known None
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
NSW South Western SlopesInland Slopes Known None
NSW South Western SlopesLower Slopes Known None
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanManning Shelf Predicted None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Predicted 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 Predicted None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
Pacific Subtropical IslandsLord Howe Island Known None
RiverinaLachlan Known None
RiverinaMurray Fans Known None
RiverinaMurray Scroll Belt Known None
RiverinaMurrumbidgee Known None
RiverinaRobinvale Plains Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern HighlandsBathurst Known None
South Eastern HighlandsMonaro Predicted None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Predicted None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known None
Sydney BasinCumberland Known None
Sydney BasinHunter Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None