Exploring the Indian Stone-Curlew: Burhinus Indicus

Journeying through the realms of South and South-eastern Asia’s plains, we discover a creature of the night, the Indian Stone-Curlew, or the Indian Thick-knee (Burhinus indicus). It’s a species that challenges our perception of typical avian life, with their large eyes and brown bodies skillfully camouflaged against the backdrop of soils and rocks. Predominantly active during the dark, they produce an enchanting symphony, not unlike the true curlews, giving them their namesake.

Bird Characteristics

Serial NumberCharacteristicsDescription
1Common nameIndian Stone-Curlew
2Scientific nameBurhinus indicus
3ColourBrown with streaks and pale marks
4Average length41 cm
5Average height23 cm
6Type of birdPlains / Grassland
7Found in India in statesMaharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh
8HabitatDry deciduous forests and thorn forest, scrubby riverbeds, groves
9IUCN StatusLeast Concern

Features of the Bird


The Indian Stone-Curlew, about 41 cm in length, presents a robust and sturdy silhouette, reminiscent of the plover species. Its plumage carries an artful blend of dark streaks on a sandy brown ground color. This mingling of hues ensures the bird remains a ghost in the wild, rarely giving away its presence, a true testament to its survival tactics.


With an average height of 23 cm, the Indian Stone-Curlew’s size is impressive for a ground bird. Their impressive stature, combined with their stout legs and thick “knees,” grants them the name “thick-knee.” This characteristic, coupled with their large yellow eyes, reinforces their unique physical attributes.

Running Speed

The Indian Stone-Curlew is not a noted flyer but instead is a fantastic runner. With the night as its playground, it utilizes its swift running speed to dart across open ground or amongst shrubbery. This elusive speed, coupled with their nocturnal nature, makes them a challenging subject for bird photographers.


The bird’s plumage, a palette of sandy brown interspersed with dark streaks and pale marks, renders it nearly invisible against the backdrop of its habitat. It is a captivating blend of camouflage artistry and natural selection.

Habitat and Food of the Bird

  1. Habitat : The Indian Stone-Curlew is predominantly found in dry deciduous forests, thorn forests, scrubby riverbeds, groves, and gardens. They even extend their presence to thin, dry deciduous forest, scrub, stony hillsides, and fallow lands, hinting at their adaptability.
  1. Diet : This bird is primarily an insectivore, with its diet consisting of various insects, worms, and small reptiles. Occasionally, they also ingest seeds, demonstrating their opportunistic feeding habits.
  1. Activity : Primarily nocturnal, the Indian Stone-Curlew is most active during dusk and dawn. These twilight periods are their prime feeding time, hunting for insects and other small creatures that venture out during these times.
  1. Group Behavior : These birds can often be found in small groups, sheltering under the shade of a bush during the day. Their distinctive calls can be heard in the quiet of the night, creating an eerily beautiful nocturnal bird song.
  1. Distribution : The bird’s range is widespread, from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, to Vietnam. In India, they are predominantly found in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.

Nesting and Nurturing

The breeding season of the Indian Stone-Curlew falls primarily in March and April. A typical clutch consists of 2 to 3 stone-colored eggs, beautifully camouflaged against the bare ground, often tucked at the base of a bush. The female takes on the major role of incubation, with the male standing guard nearby, showcasing a unique gender role in the avian world.

The chicks, nidifugous in nature, are downy and cryptically colored, enabling them to blend seamlessly into their environment. Soon after hatching, they follow their parents, learning the art of survival from the onset. When alarmed, the young chicks freeze and crouch, their cryptic plumage making them difficult to detect.


Habitat destruction, often a result of human encroachment and agricultural expansion, remains the primary threat to the Indian Stone-Curlew. These changes affect their breeding grounds and feeding areas, often resulting in a decrease in population. Increased use of pesticides also directly impacts their food sources, causing further decline.

IUCN Status and Conservation

The Indian Stone-Curlew currently falls under the ‘Least Concern’ category on the IUCN Red List. However, the continued loss of its habitat and food sources underscores the urgency to implement effective conservation strategies. Initiatives should include preserving and restoring their natural habitats, regulating pesticide use, and increasing public awareness about these unique birds.

In conclusion, the Indian Stone-Curlew, or the Indian Thick-knee (Burhinus indicus), is an intriguing and elusive creature of the night. The cryptic symphony of their calls against the hushed sounds of the nocturnal wild paints an enchanting picture, one that underlines the magic and mystique of India’s diverse avifauna. So, the next time you’re on a bird sanctuary or birdlife sanctuary tour, be on the lookout for this nocturnal songster, a delight for any bird lover.

More info about Indian Stone-Curlew: Link

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