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The curlew, Numenius arquata, is the largest wading bird found in Europe. It has a long down-curved bill and a long, loud echoing call. They use their long, sensitive bills to probe mud or sand for worms, shellfish and crabs. 

They breed in Scotland, Wales, the north of England and in Scandinavia in the summer. They come to the Solent for the winter to escape freezing temperatures and short daylight hours. 

How to spot them

You are likely hear the curlew's characteristic call before you see it. They can be difficult to spot as they feed alone on the shore. Their greyish-brown and buff plumage also means they are well camouflaged. Once spotted it is a striking and captivating bird.

They look similar to whimbrel, which are distinctly smaller with a shorter bill. Whimbrel are normally only seen here during spring and autumn migration.

Where to see them

You can see them all along the Solent coast. At high tide curlew roost together on fields near the coast. When feeding they tend to spread out along the shore and might squabble or fight if other curlew get too close.

Conservation status

The curlew is red listed in the UK .  Despite being a fairly common sight on UK coasts in the winter, global numbers are in decline.

Did you know?

The collective noun for a group of curlews is a 'herd'.

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