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Bush Thick-knee Picture

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When disturbed, they freeze motionless, often in odd-looking postures, as a defense against predators

The Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) is a large, ground-dwelling bird endemic to Australia. Although it looks rather like a wader and is related to the oystercatchers, avocets and plovers, it is a terrestrial predator filling a similar ecological niche to the roadrunners of North America.

Like most stone-curlews, it is mainly nocturnal and specialises in hunting small grassland animals: frogs, spiders, insects, molluscs, crustaceans, snakes, lizards and small mammals are all taken, mostly gleaned or probed from soft soil or rotting wood; also a few seeds or tubers, particularly in drought years. Birds usually forage individually or in pairs over a large home range, particularly on moonlit nights.

During the day, Bush Stone-curlews tend to remain inactive, sheltering amongst tall grass or low shrubs and relying on their cryptic plumage to protect them from predators. When disturbed, they freeze motionless, often in odd-looking postures. For visual predators like raptors (and humans), this works well, but it serves little purpose with animals that hunt by scent such as foxes, dingoes or goannas.

Despite their ungainly appearance and habit of freezing motionless, they are sure-footed, fast and agile on the ground, and although they seldom fly during daylight hours, they are far from clumsy in the air; flight is rapid and direct on long, broad wings.

When threatened (presumably in the presence of a nest), they may raise their wings wide and high in an impressive threat posture and emit a loud hoarse hissing noise.

Conservation Status Adult & young, Rush Creek, SE Queensland

Bush Stone-curlews remain reasonably common in the north of Australia, but have become rare in the more fertile south. Many experts believe that fox predation is a prime factor in their decline, however there are areas where foxes are common yet the Bush Stone-curlew population remains healthy, so the true causes remain uncertain. Large-scale habitat destruction and fragmentation has undoubtedly been important, and may well be the major factor.


Bush Stone Curlew is not listed as threatened on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

New South Wales

Bush Stone Curlew are considered to be endangered in New South Wales under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.


Bush Stone Curlew is considered common and not threatened.

  • Bush Stone Curlew are listed as threatened on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has been prepared.
  • On the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, this species is listed as endangered.

Chicks in cryptic pose

Adult facial markings



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