Latin name: Numenius arquata
Scottish name: Whaup or whap
Length: 50 - 60cm Wingspan: 80 - 100cm
Where: Glen Dochart; pasture and moorland in summer; muddy coastlines in winter
When: All year round
The curlew’s distinctive long, down-curved bill makes it easy to identify. It uses it to probe deep into the mud or earth to find the invertebrates on which it feeds. From a distance the birds seem a rather drab brown, but a closer look reveals the delicate and complex patterns of brown, black and grey that help them blend into the landscape.
The females are even bigger than the males, and can weigh up to 3lb (1.5kg). Although they do most of the egg brooding, they often head back to their coastal feeding grounds in June, leaving the males to tend the young until they fledge. So if you see a curlew inland late in the summer it’s likely to be a male left holding the baby.
A curlew’s call is one of the most evocative of all our birds – a crescendo of clear, piping notes ending in a bubbling trill. Robert Burns was so moved by it that he wrote:
‘I never heard the solitary whistle of curlew on a summer noon without feeling an elevation of soul.’
You can hear them from early spring in damp fields and moorland all around the Park, where they come to breed. In winter they move back to the muddy estuaries and coastlines where food is more plentiful and easy to come by.
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