(Numenius phaeopus)




Facts about this animal

A large, chunky wading bird with a length of about 43 cm and a body-weight of 375 g, a long and decurved bill, and a conspicuously striped head.

The plumage of head and neck is pale buff, finely streaked with brown and broad, blackish-brown stripes on each side of crown and through eye. The upper parts are dull-brown, flecked with buffy brown. The remiges are barred with buffy-brown; below pale dull buff, streaked on chest and barred on sides with brown, the belly whitish. The bill is blackish, lighter towards the base, the iris dark brown, and the legs are dark grey.

The nest is a shallow bowl on the ground, usually lined with leaves, into which usually 4 (range: 2-5) blue-green to brownish eggs are laid. The hatchlings are downy and active, and may leave nest within one to two hours.

The whimbrel feeds primarily on marine invertebrates, especially small crabs, but takes also insects, berries, and even flowers during the breeding season.

Did you know?
that, in many regions, the primary winter food of the whimbrel is crab? The curve of the whimbrel's bill nicely matches the shape of fiddler crab burrows. The bird reaches into the crab's burrow, extracts the crab, washes it if it is muddy, and sometimes breaks off the claws and legs before swallowing it.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Numenius phaeopus
Name (English) Whimbrel
Name (French) Courlis corlieu
Name (German) Regenbrachvogel
Name (Spanish) Zarapito Trinador
Local names Czech: Koliha malá
Danish: Småspove (Lille Regnspove)
Dutch: Regenwulp
Estonian: Väikekoovitaja ehk
Finnish: Pikkukuovi (Finnish)
Hungarian: Kis póling
Icelandic: Spói
Italian: Chiurlo piccolo
Norwegian: Småspove
Polish: Kulik mniejszy
Portuguese: Maçarico-galego
Romansh: Fliaun pitschen
Slovenina: Mali skurh
Swedish: Småspov
CITES Status Not Listed
CMS Status Protected under Appendix II of the African Eurasian waterfowl Agreement (AEWA)



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Range Whimbrels have a very wide range occurring either as a breeding bird or during migration in many countries in Africa, Eurasia, South-East Asia, Oceania, North Central and South America. Birds of the western palearctic population breed mainly in Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia and the Faeroe Islands, and winter mostly in West Africa.
Habitat Breeds in various tundra habitat, from wet lowlands to dry heath. In migration, frequents various coastal and inland habitats, including fields and beaches. Winters in tidal flats and shorelines, occasionally visiting inland habitats.
Wild population The global population is estimated to be in the order of 1,000,000–2,100,000 individuals
Zoo population 9 specimens in 7 institutions reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 11H of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Arturo Mann

Why do zoos keep this animal

Whimbrels are not a threatened species. Zoos keep them for educational purposes and as an ambassador species for marine and coastal conservation, or for animal welfare reasons as they may have to take care of injured birds which cannot be returned to the wild.