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Whimbrel (numenius phaeopus) | by Brian Carruthers-Dublin-Eire
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Whimbrel (numenius phaeopus)

[group] Sandpipers and allies | [order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Numenius phaeopus | [UK] Whimbrel | [FR] Courlis corlieu | [DE] Regen-Brachvogel | [ES] Zarapito Trinador | [NL] Regenwulp | [IRL] Crotach eanaigh


spanwidth min.: 78 cm

spanwidth max.: 88 cm

size min.: 37 cm

size max.: 45 cm


incubation min.: 27 days

incubation max.: 28 days

fledging min.: 35 days

fledging max.: 28 days

broods 1

eggs min.: 3

eggs max.: 4


May Curlew, May Whaap, May Fowl, Half Curlew


Status: Passage migrant in autumn (August/September) and spring (April/May).


Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population is considered to be Secure.


Identification: Similar in appearance to the Curlew, but slightly smaller. Whimbrel has a similar downcurved bill, but this is slightly shorter than that of the Curlew. When seen well, distinctive "striped" head pattern can be discerned - formed by a dark crown, with a pale streak through the centre, a pale supercillium and a dark eyestripe. The call is also one of the best ways of finding a flock of migrating Whimbrels passing overhead.


Similar Species: Curlew


Call: A rapid, monotone whistle - "whit-tit-tit-tit-tit-tit…", very unlike the call of a Curlew. Frequently heard as birds fly high overhead. Also occasionally a rapid bubbling song, quite similar to Curlew's.


Diet: Molluscs, crustaceans & polychaete worms.


Breeding: Although there have been a few sightings of birds in suitable habitat, there are no records of Whimbrel breeding in Ireland. Breeds almost continously in Arctic areas from Scandinavia across Siberia to Canada, Greenland and Iceland.


Wintering: A few Whimbrel winter in coastal areas, mainly along the south and east coast. The main wintering range extends from southern Spain along the west African coast to southern Africa.


Where to See: Mainly coastal sites during spring and autumn migration



Physical characteristics


A large, relatively short-legged shorebird with a long down-curved bill, striped head, brown speckled upperparts and light underparts with streaking on the neck and upper breast. The underwings are light. Sexes similar in plumage, but female larger on average. Similar to adult, but back with light spots, crown stripe less distinct, breast more buff, and with finer streaking on neck and chest.




Breeds in various tundra habitat, from wet lowlands to dry heath or wet taiga bogs that have scattered, stunted black spruce. In migration, frequents various coastal and inland habitats, including fields and beaches. Winters in tidal flats and shorelines, occasionally visiting inland habitats.

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Taken on August 13, 2017