stone-curlew defined in 1930 yearstone-curlew - Stone-Curlew;
stone-curlew - Beak black, yellowish at the base; irides, orbits, legs, and feet yellow; upper parts mottled pale brown; wing-coverts with white tips, forming two narrow bars; quill black; throat and stripe beneath the eye white; neck and breast buff streaked with dark brown. Length, seventeen inches. Sexes alike.
The stone-curlew owes its name to a superficial resemblance in its size and pale brown, mottled plumage to the common curlew, and to its preference for a sandy or stony soil. It is also called the thick-knee, from the curious conformation of its knees, which are very massive, and have a somewhat bulbous appearance. Its other common names are big plover and Norfolk plover, Norfolk and Suffolk being now the headquarters of this species in England, although it is still found in small and, sad to say, diminishing numbers in suitable localities from Hampshire and Dorsetshire in the south to the worlds of Lincolnshire and the East Biding of Yorkshire in the north. It does not occur in Ireland. It is a bird of a somewhat singular appearance, and is the sole representative of its family in Europe. It is a summer visitor to England, a few birds remaining to winter in the southern counties, and inhabits extensive heaths where there are patches of stony or pebbly ground; and it also frequents fallows and downs. In its habits it is semi-nocturnal, feeding principally by night; it is by night that its wild, clear, ringing cry is usually heard. Its breeding- time is about the middle of April, when it deposits its two eggs in a slight hollow in the ground, among the flint pebbles and scanty vegetation. The eggs are buff-coloured, spotted and streaked with grey and brown, and are very hard to discover, so well do they harmonise in hue and markings with the sandy and pebbly ground on which they are placed.
Mr. Trevor-Battye thus describes the nesting habits of the stone- curlew in his ' Pictures in Prose - ' This bird, quite apart from its own very quaint appearance and habits, mast always have a great interest for British ornithologists, as it is the nearest surviving link we have with the great bustard, now, alas I extinct in this country. It is nocturnal in its habits, and is extremely wary and shy. Although on its arrival in spring it keeps well away in the open, it generally lays its eggs not far from a belt or covert of trees. The pair of which I speak had chosen the middle of a gravelly space among the pines. By creeping upon hands and knees under cover of a bank one could gain a position, just fifteen paces away from the nest, without being observed, so close that with my glass I could see the light shine through the crystal prominence of the sitting-bird's great yellow eyes. At intervals one bird would relieve the other on the nest. "When disturbed the birds ran away for shelter to a bank beneath the pines. And here the bird that was not sitting always stood sentry. When its turn came to relieve its mate it would walk pretty deliberately across the first part of the open, where it was more or less screened by a fringe of trees; and then, having reached a point that was commanded from a long way off, it would suddenly lower its head, and run as fast as a red leg to the nest. When it was about a yard away the sitting-bird would slip off, and, staying for no greetings, run past, and away to the pine-bank.... It was interesting to notice that the bird always rose backwards from the nest, so that its long legs should not disturb the eggs; and that the new-comer did not turn the eggs immediately, but squatted perfectly still for perhaps a minute, as if to make sure it was not disturbed. And after the eggs were satisfactorily disposed, and all the coast seemed clear, the bird would close its eyes in the hot sunshine, and appear to go to sleep. But even then I could scarcely so much as move a finger above the ground but instantly it was off its nest and away.'
It is very delightful to be thus let into the domestic secrets of so shy and wary a bird by so close and sympathetic an observer as Mr. Trevor-Battye.
When anxious to avoid being seen the stone-curlew practises the device of squatting close on the ground with its neck extended. The South American rheas have a similar habit, and it is, perhaps, possessed by other large birds that have a more or less protective colouring and inhabit the open country.
The stone-curlew feeds on slugs, worms, and insects, and also devours mice and small reptiles.
The family Glareolidse is represented in works on British birds by one species, the collared pratincole (Glareola pratincola), a rare straggler to Great Britain from Southern Europe. This bird comes between the stone-curlew and the true plovers (family Charadriidse), which follow.
The cream-coloured courser (Cursorius gallicus) is another rare straggler to England from Western Asia and North Africa.
pictures for stone-curlew
near stone-curlew in Knolik
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