IUCN Red-List: Near Threatened
In its non-breeding plumage, the adorable little Curlew Sandpiper looks a bit like a large Red-necked Stint that has had its bill and legs stretched. They have smooth grey-brown plumage on their wings and back, a slightly speckled breast and white underparts. They have a medium-length, down-curved, black bill, which they use to pull polychaete worms and other invertebrates from the mud.
The Curlew Sandpiper breeds in the high Tundra of far north Russia, an area experiencing significant change due to global warming. In addition to facing adversity in their relatively small breeding range, habitat loss in the Yellow Sea is making it hard for them to find somewhere to rest on the journey to and from Australia. Together these threats have led to a significant population decline of around 40% since 1975 and their being listed as Critically Endangered in Australia.
When visiting Australia in the non-breeding period, the Curlew Sandpiper is happy in a range of coastal environments, sometimes even inland environments! They are often seen foraging with Red-necked Stints and other waders, but can be distinguished from afar by their characteristic “sewing-machine” feeding action.
Meet the other shorebirds!
Written by Cathy Cavallo © 2017 Header image: Dan Weller Map: Amellia Formby Curlew Sandpiper images: Cathy Cavallo