If Bush Stone-curlews are nearby you may hear their eerie, high-pitched wailing at night. This ghost-like call is their contact call, and may be given by several birds in a chorus. Rendered as weer-lo, it is repeated four or five times, sometimes culminating in a trilled, screeching crescendo. It is sometimes also heard during the day, when stone-curlews are usually inactive, standing quietly in the shade with their eyes half-closed, or squatting on the ground where their cryptic plumage makes them difficult to see among the leaf litter. The Bush Stone-curlew, or Bush Thick-knee, is a large, slim, mainly nocturnal, ground-dwelling bird. It is mostly grey-brown above, streaked with black and rufous. It is whitish below with clear, vertical black streaks. The bill is small and black, and the eye is large and yellow, with a prominent white eyebrow. Both sexes are similar. Young Bush Stone-curlews are similar in appearance to the adults, but are paler, and a little browner in colour. Bush Stone-curlews are nocturnal birds (night birds), doing all their feeding and other activities at night.
Habitat and Range
The range of the Bush Stone-curlew extends throughout Australia.
Bush Stone-curlews have a wide-ranging diet, but prefer to feed on insects, molluscs, small lizards, seeds and occasionally small mammals. Feeding takes place at night. During the breeding season, nesting birds will search for food in the vicinity of the nest site, while at other times, birds may travel large distances. All food is taken from the ground.
Bush Stone-curlews have a remarkable courtship dance. Individuals stand with their wings outstretched, their tail upright and their neck stretched slightly forward. The birds will stamp their feet up and down, like a soldier marking time. This courtship ritual is repeated for an hour or more at a time and is accompanied by loud and constant calling. Eggs are laid in a shallow scrape in the ground and both adults share the incubation and care for the young.
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Text © Birdlife Australia
Image © Jona Photography