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Whimbrels passing through


Just when you’ve worked out how to recognise curlew, along comes a whimbrel!

If birds aren’t your thing you might wonder why you should care? But the whimbrel demonstrate the importance of our piece of coastline. It is a vital staging post for these birds on their long haul flight. Whimbrel fly all the way from Africa to nest on far flung islands off the northern tip of Scotland. It is a long way to fly so they need to rest and feed before attempting the final 700 or so miles.

The curlew’s smaller cousins pass through here briefly in April and May. But how do you know if it is a whimbrel or a curlew? One of the clues is in its nickname the Seven Whistler, due to their distinctive call. So if you hear several piping whistles it is a whimbrel. In Celtic superstition the Seven Whistlers are supposedly a group of six birds looking for a seventh. Hearing the call was fabled to augur death or other disaster. Let’s hope not!

If you get a close enough view, look out for a dark eye stripe and 2 dark stripes on the crown. Its bill is less curved than curlews, almost straight but bent at the end.

The whimbrel is on the red list as its numbers are declining.

Other links:
Our curlew page

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