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Curlews of the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays are full of diverse animal and plant life, both above and below the water. Everywhere you look or explore, there is new species to be witnessed and appreciated, along with the curlew, a Whitsundays local.

There are two types of curlews in the Whitsundays, the bush stone curlew and the beach stone curlew. 

Bush Stone Curlew

Of the two types of curlews found in the Whitsundays, the one most often seen is the Bush Stone Curlew. They are often sighted on the Islands and have been known to hang around the resorts looking for handouts. They are generally a nocturnal bird that sleeps mostly during the day and tends to hunt at night with an early start around dusk. The huge eyes are a give away that this bird likes to hunt in the dark. Bush stone curlews feed on insects, spiders, small frogs and reptiles.

Laying just two eggs in a nest on the ground, the local Goanna population are always on the hunt for the delicacy of fresh curlew eggs, meaning that their eggs are under threat. If you approach these birds, they will often run away at high speeds or even make a hissing sound that is quite intimidating. The birds walk boldly with pride and their heads held high, a good flyer that only takes to the air in emergencies.

The wailing sound the curlew makes is haunting and eerie , but at the same time it is distinctive and not unpleasant sound to listen to. A famous Australia Author Peter Watt has penned an excellent book Titled Cry of The Curlew. A beautiful fictional book that comes highly recommended as excellent reading.

If walking ashore at dusk and you sight a curlew, please tell the boat crew as these wonderful birds, though still common on the islands, are fast falling victim to predators on the mainland and are still a beautiful sight to see. 

Beach Stone Curlew

Living just above the hight tide mark you can find nests of the beach stone curlew, another species of curlew that live in the Whitsundays. They are an island bird that rarely takes flight, although they can fly. When anchored close to shore on vessels in the Whitsundays you may often hear a wailing call as the curlew hunts for crabs on the beach. As a ground nesting bird these beautiful creatures are very endangered, due to the fact that their eggs and young are under constant threat. The National Parks of the Whitsundays are generally free of many introduced predators, meaning they are mostly safe from foxes, wild cats and dogs. However, young chicks are not safe from the local eagle and osprey population, which often feast on the young birds.

Their great eye sight and good camouflage helps then stay out of trouble, allowing them to stay under the radar of predators. All visitors to the islands are requested respect the fact the birds are an endangered species and they should be disturbed as little as possible.

The beach stone curlew is easily recognized by its long legs and large yellow bill, their heads have a bold black and white pattern.

Sam Clapham
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