The Great Stone-curlew: An Impressive Tropical Wader

The Great Stone-curlew (Esacus recurvirostris), also known as the great thick-knee, is a fascinating bird that stands out with its massive bill and striking black and white facial pattern. This large wader, which is a resident breeder in tropical southern Asia, especially in countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and various regions in Southeast Asia, is often seen on the gravel banks along rivers, large lakes, and beaches. As you travel to a bird sanctuary or explore birdlife through a sanctuary visit, you may come across this bird, which adds an element of surprise and awe to the experience.

Serial NumberCharacteristicsDescription
1Common nameGreat Stone-curlew
2Scientific nameEsacus recurvirostris
3ColourGrey-brown upperparts and breast, whitish underparts
4Average length49-55 cm
5Average heightAround 50 cm
6Type of birdWader
7Found in India in statesWidespread across many states
8HabitatGravel banks along rivers or large lakes, and beaches
9IUCN StatusNot evaluated

Features of the Great Stone-curlew


The Great Stone-curlew is a large bird with a length that ranges from 49 to 55 cm. This measurement makes it a remarkable sight for any bird lover, especially when it takes to the air. Its significant length gives it an imposing presence, ensuring it stands out in any bird sanctuary or natural habitat.


Referring to the bird’s vertical length, the Great Stone-curlew stands approximately 50 cm tall. Its height, along with its large body size, contributes to its fascinating physical profile. Bird enthusiasts often flock to bird sanctuaries or birdlife sanctuaries to appreciate the remarkable size of this bird.

Running Speed

Like other waders, the Great Stone-curlew is not known for its speed. Instead, it uses its well-camouflaged plumage to blend into the surroundings. When it does move, it’s usually a slow, deliberate walk, interspersed with occasional short runs. These movements can be a captivating sight for anyone visiting a bird sanctuary.


The Great Stone-curlew boasts a mix of colors that help it blend with its surroundings. It has grey-brown upperparts and breast, with the rest of the underparts being whitish.  The bird’s face has a prominent black and white design, while its bill is black with a yellow base. Its eyes are a vibrant shade of yellow, and its legs have a slightly duller greenish-yellow hue.

Habitat and Food 

The Great Stone-curlew is a versatile bird that can be found in various habitats, from the gravel banks along rivers or large lakes to beaches. It prefers open spaces and is mostly nocturnal or crepuscular. During the day, they can frequently be seen foraging, moving slowly and deliberately.

The Great Stone-curlew primarily feeds on crabs, large insects, and other animal prey. When they are near a water body, they often indulge in aquatic delicacies, making them a fascinating bird to observe for both casual bird watchers and hardcore ornithologists.

Nesting and Nurturing

The breeding behavior of the Great Stone-curlew is just as captivating as its physical features. The bird lays a single egg in a bare scrape on the open shingle, without making a distinctive nest. This approach reflects their preference for minimalism and their ability to blend into their environment for protection.


Despite their distinctive appearance and formidable size, the Great Stone-curlews are facing a number of threats that pose challenges to their survival. One of the major threats these birds confront is habitat destruction. Given their preference for warm, tropical climates and specific habitats like gravel banks along rivers, large lakes, and beaches, any alteration or destruction to these environments can have a detrimental impact on their population.

Furthermore, human disturbances, such as encroachment and pollution, have also been causing issues for these birds. As human activities encroach further into natural habitats, birds like the Great Stone-curlew are increasingly forced to relocate, leading to increased competition for resources in their new habitats. This displacement, combined with pollution of their water and food sources, can lead to decreased survival rates.

Predation is another significant threat to the Great Stone-curlews. While adult birds can rely on their large size and powerful beaks for some measure of protection, eggs and young birds are vulnerable to a variety of predators. These can range from other larger birds, to mammals, and even reptiles. Without adequate protection, these young lives are often lost before they can contribute to the population.

These threats, individually or in combination, pose a serious risk to the Great Stone-curlews.Taking action to mitigate the threats is crucial to ensure the survival of this captivating species of birds. Without a concerted effort from both conservationists and the general public, we risk losing not just an integral part of our global birdlife, but also a species that holds a special place in the hearts of bird lovers worldwide.

IUCN Status and Conservation

As of now, the IUCN status of the Great Stone-curlew has not been evaluated. However, as a species predominantly found in the tropical regions of southern Asia, it’s essential to protect their habitat and ensure their survival.

The Great Stone-curlew is a magnificent bird that provides a unique spectacle for bird lovers. Its impressive size, coupled with its interesting behavioural traits, make it a favorite among birdwatchers. Whether you’re viewing a bird png, exploring a bird picture gallery, or visiting a bird shop near me, the Great Stone-curlew invariably makes a lasting impression.

So, the next time you embark on a bird flying adventure or head to a bird shop, keep an eye out for the Great Stone-curlew – and, don’t forget to share your experience with other bird lovers. This way, we can all contribute to raising awareness about these amazing birds and their need for conservation.

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