The Little Curlew Numenius minutus is a medium sized shorebird and the smallest curlew to visit Australia. It is usually present in the Broome area from mid-September, but this varies from year to year. They often appear at the ephemeral lakes and also on the school ovals-sports fields. You are more likely to see large flocks of them on open plains than single birds, but they are an unpredictable bird at best and extremely little is known about the population that visits Australia each year. They are presumed to breed in northern Siberia, but there has not been conclusive evidence as far as I know yet. A flock of over 10,000 birds was present to the south of Broome in 2002 and the previous record number observed was 50,000 in 1985 on Roebuck Plains.

On 10th October I was heading to the beach on my bicycle when a shorebird flew low over my head and landed directly behind me on the park lawn. I was soon turning back to see what it was and what it had planned. I was surprised to see it was a lone Little Curlew and it immediately set about looking for food in the grass. It had not read the sign in the park, which clearly says “Brolga Park”! The Brolga have not actually made it across the road and into the park yet! I rang some friends who had not seen Little Curlew yet this year and they drove around to observe the bird. It was very obliging and was quite happy to walk around me with my bicycle in search of food.

First views of the Little Curlew having landed in Brolga Park

Little Curlew in Brolga Park

Little Curlew walks by me looking for food

It was very interesting that this one lone bird stayed feeding in the park for 8 days. It would leave if there were children and dogs present late in the afternoon and would be there again in the morning when I checked. It seemed odd that it was alone and that it remained so long was a joy! It had found a good food source and was more than welcome to remain close to our home.

We visited an ephemeral lake close to Broome this week in the hope of finding more than one Little Curlew, but we only doubled our numbers! There were two beside the lake on the grass and so I will share the photographs I took of those two and you will have to imagine a large flock for now!

Little Curlew at an ephemeral lake near Broome

Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!