A Curlew sandpiper in grey non-breeding plumage standing on a mudflat
The Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) looks a bit like a Red-necked Stint that has had its bill and legs stretched. They have black legs and a black, down-curved bill adapted for pulling polychaete worms and other invertebrates from the mud.
 
In the non-breeding season, their plumage is a smooth grey-brown on their wings and back. Their breast is slightly speckled with white underparts. When breeding season comes around, the plumage on their head, chest and belly turns brick red.
A Curlew Sandpiper in grey non-breeding plumage feeding in shallow water
Non-breeding plumage - October to March
A Curlew Sandpiper in brick red breeding plumage standing on one leg in the water
Breeding plumage - April to September
Cartoon world map showing distribution of the Curlew Sandpiper
 
To find a Curlew Sandpiper in Australia, look around coastal environments during summer. It is most common in the south-east and north-west. 
 
They are often seen foraging with Red-necked Stints and other waders. You can distinguish the Curlew Sandpiper from these other birds by their curved bill and characteristic “sewing-machine” feeding action.
A Curlew Sandpiper sitting on a nest with two chicks
Curlew Sandpiper nest with chicks on the Great Arctic Reserve, Taimyr, Russia.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

Near Threatened

Australian EPBC Act

Critically Endangered

Similar Species

Image credits:
Cathy Cavallo
Author
Cathy recently completed her PhD in Ecology and is a communicator with a passion for natural history, connecting people with nature and photography. When she isn’t running operations and social media for Remember The Wild, you’ll find her in the bush or underwater.

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