Burhinidae – Thick-knees & Stone Curlews

Water Thick-knee Burhinus vermiculata ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The Burhinidae or stone-curlews, also known as dikkops or thick-knees, consist of ten species found throughout the tropical and temperate parts of the world, with two species found in Australia. Despite the group being classified as waders, most species have a preference for arid or semi-arid habitats.

They are medium to large birds with strong black or yellow black bills, large yellow eyes—which give them a reptilian appearance—and cryptic plumage. The names thick-knee and stone-curlew are both in common use, the preference among authorities for one term or the other varying from year to year. The term stone-curlew owes its origin to the broad similarities with true curlews (which are not closely related). Thick-knee refers to the prominent joints in the long yellow or greenish legs and apparently originated with a name coined in 1776 for B. oedicnemus, the Eurasian stone-curlew. Obviously the heel (ankle) and the knee are confused here.

They are largely nocturnal, particularly when singing their loud wailing songs, which are reminiscent of true curlews. The diet consists mainly of insects and other invertebrates such as desert snails. Larger species will also take lizards and even small mammals. Most species are sedentary, but the Eurasian Stone-curlew is a summer migrant in the temperate European part of its range, wintering in Africa.

According to the IOC, there are just ten species of Thick-knees or Stone Curlews in the family Burhinidae; they are:

Eurasian Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
Indian Stone-curlew Burhinus indicus
Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis
Water Thick-knee Burhinus vermiculata
Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis
Double-striped Thick-knee Burhinus bistriatus
Peruvian Thick-knee Burhinus superciliaris
Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius
Great Stone-curlew Burhinus recurvirostris
Beach Stone-curlew Burhinus giganteus

Species Links
  • Beach thick-knee Burhinus giganteus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Beach thick-knee Burhinus giganteus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Beach thick-knee Burhinus giganteus

    Species Account
    The beach stone-curlew (Esacus magnirostris) also known as beach thick-knee is a large, ground-dwelling bird that occurs in Australasia, the islands of South-east Asia. At 55 cm (22 in) and 1 kg (2.2 lb), it is one of the world's largest shorebirds. At a mean of 1,032 g (2.275 lb) in males and 1,000 g (2.2 lb) in females, it the heaviest living member of the Charadriiformes outside of the gull and skua families.
  • Beach thick-knee Burhinus giganteus

    Species Account
    The Beach Stone-Curlew is a very large thick-set wader. Adults have a large head, massive uptilted bill, hunched profile, stout legs and thick 'knees' (actually ankles). The upper body is predominately grey-brown with distinctive black and white patterning on the face, shoulder and secondary wings.
  • Beach thick-knee Burhinus giganteus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Beach thick-knee Burhinus giganteus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Œdicnemus magnirostris Vieillot, 1818, Depuch Island, Western Australia.
  • Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius

    Species Account
    The Bush Stone-curlew, or Bush Thick-knee, is a large, slim, mainly nocturnal, ground-dwelling bird. It is mostly grey-brown above, streaked with black and rufous.
  • Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius

    IUCN Species Status
  • Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius

    Species Account
    The bush stone-curlew or bush thick-knee (Burhinus grallarius, obsolete name Burhinus magnirostris) is a large (55–60 cm wingspan),[2] 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 an ecological niche similar to that of the roadrunners of North America.
  • Double-striped Thick-knee Burhinus bistriatus

    Wiki
    The double-striped thick-knee (Burhinus bistriatus) is a stone-curlew, a group of waders in the family Burhinidae. It is a resident breeder in Central and South America from southern Mexico south to Colombia, Venezuela and northern Brazil. It also occurs on Hispaniola and some of the Venezuelan islands, and is a very rare vagrant to Trinidad, Curaçao and the USA...
  • Double-striped Thick-knee Burhinus bistriatus

    BirdLife Species Account
    Full species account...
  • Double-striped Thick-knees Burhinus bistriatus

    Cornell Species Account
    The Double-striped Thick-knee is distributed from southern Mexico to Costa Rica, from northern Colombia to Guyana, in northeastern Brazil, and on Curaçao and Hispaniola. Like other thick-knees, it occurs in dry pastures and other open areas.
  • Double-striped Thick-knees Burhinus bistriatus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Double-striped Thick-knees Burhinus bistriatus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Charadrius bistriatus Wagler, 1829, Mexico.Proposed race vigilans is synonymous with nominate bistriatus. Four races recognized.
  • Eurasian thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Eurasian thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus

    HBW Species Account
  • Eurasian thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Eurasian thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Eurasian thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus

    Species Account
    The Eurasian stone curlew, Eurasian thick-knee, or simply stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) is a northern species of the Burhinidae (stone-curlew) bird family.
  • Great Stone-curlew Burhinus recurvirostris

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Œdicnemus recurvirostris Cuvier, 1829, Nepal.Closely related to E. magnirostris, with which in past occasionally considered conspecific. Monotypic.
  • Great Stone-curlew Burhinus recurvirostris

    IUCN Species Status
  • Great Stone-curlew Burhinus recurvirostris

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Great Stone-curlew Burhinus recurvirostris

    Species Account
    The great stone-curlew or great thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris) is a large wader which is a resident breeder in tropical southern Asia from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh[2] into South-east Asia.
  • Indian Stone-curlew Burhinus indicus

    Species Account
    The Indian stone-curlew or Indian thick-knee (Burhinus indicus) is a species of bird in the family Burhinidae. It was formerly included as a subspecies of the Eurasian stone-curlew. This species is found in the plains of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. They have large eyes and are brown with streaks and pale marks making it hard to spot against the background of soils and rocks. Mostly active in the dark, they produce calls similar to the true curlews, giving them their names.
  • Indian Stone-curlew Burhinus indicus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Indian Stone-curlew Burhinus indicus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Indian Stone-curlew Burhinus indicus

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Oedicnemus indicus Salvadori, 1865, India.
  • Peruvian thick-knee Burhinus superciliaris

    Webpage
    BirdLife species profile...
  • Peruvian thick-knee Burhinus superciliaris

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Oedicnenus [sic] superciliaris Tschudi, 1843, coast of Peru. Monotypic.
  • Peruvian thick-knee Burhinus superciliaris

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Peruvian thick-knee Burhinus superciliaris

    Species Account
    The Peruvian thick-knee (Burhinus superciliaris) is a species of bird in the family Burhinidae. It is found in Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, and pastureland. It is a ground-dwelling bird and feeds on insects and small animals.
  • Peruvian thick-knee Burhinus superciliaris

    Cornell Species Account
    Cornell species account....
  • Senegal thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Senegal thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis

    Species Account
    The Senegal thick-knee (Burhinus senegalensis) is a stone-curlew, a group of waders in the family Burhinidae.
  • Senegal thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis

    IUCN Species Status
  • Senegal thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Œdicnemus Senegalensis Swainson, 1837, Senegal.E populations sometimes separated as race inornatus, but differences from others rather slight and broad zone of intergradation through N Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic and NE DRCongo. Monotypic.
  • Senegal thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Spotted thick-knee Burhinus capensis

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Spotted thick-knee Burhinus capensis

    IBC Species Account
    IBC species profile...
  • Spotted thick-knee Burhinus capensis

    BirdLife Species Account
    BirdLife species profile...
  • Spotted thick-knee Burhinus capensis

    IUCN Species Status
  • Spotted thick-knee Burhinus capensis

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Spotted thick-knee Burhinus capensis

    Species Account
    The spotted thick-knee (Burhinus capensis) also known as the spotted dikkop or Cape thick-knee, is a wader in the family Burhinidae. It is native to tropical regions of central and southern Africa.
  • Water Thick-knee (Dikkop) Burhinus vermiculata

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Water Thick-knee (Dikkop) Burhinus vermiculata

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Oedicnemus vermiculatus Cabanis, 1868, Lake Jipe, near Taita, Kenya. Two subspecies recognized.
  • Water Thick-knee (Dikkop) Burhinus vermiculata

    IUCN Species Status
  • Water Thick-knee (Dikkop) Burhinus vermiculata

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Water Thick-knee (Dikkop) Burhinus vermiculata

    Species Account
    The water thick-knee (Burhinus vermiculatus), or water dikkop is a species of bird in the family Burhinidae. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 10

Useful Reading
  • Shorebirds

    (WorldLife Library) by Des Thimpson, Ingvar Byrkjedal 2001 ISBN: 1841070750 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Shorebirds

    An Identification Guide to the Waders of the World by Pter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater - Helm 1986 ISBN: 0713635096 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Shorebirds of North America - The Photographic guide

    by Dennis Paulson Christopher Helm 2005. Price ?24.99p ISBN: 071367377X Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Waders of Europe, Asia & North America

    by Stephen Message & Don Taylor published by Christopher Helm 2006 price ?24.99p See Fatbirder Review ISBN: 071365290X Buy this book from NHBS.com
Other Links
  • The New Shorebirds Handbook Project

    Blog
    This is a blog of The New Shorebirds Handbook Project which aims to bring together the current knowledge on shorebird science, conservation and a little bit more. By following the blog, readers could insight into the progress and important milestones of the project and the recent news on the world of waders and a bit more of us, the authors….
  • Wader Quest

    Website
    It is vital to to take action to prevent the Spoon-billed Sandpiper from becoming extinct. Wader Quest is an attempt to raise money and awareness to the plight of, not just these tiny wanderers but of wader species worldwide…
Photographers & Artists
  • Double-striped Thick-knees Burhinus bistriatus

    Gallery
    Excellent image
  • Double-striped Thick-knees Burhinus bistriatus

    Gallery
    Excellent image

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND