Family Sandpipers, Snipes, Phalaropes (Scolopacidae)

Least Concern

Little Curlew (Numenius minutus)


French: Courlis nain German: Zwergbrachvogel Spanish: Zarapito chico
Other common names: Little Whimbrel

Numenius minutus


, 1841,

Maitland, on Hunter River, New South Wales, Australia


Closely related to N. borealis, with which formerly considered conspecific, but differs in smaller size, expressed particularly as shorter bill and shorter wing (wing effect size −3.73; score 2); longer tarsus (effect size 2.96; score 2); paler (buffy-white vs cinnamon-buff; subscore 1) and unmarked (vs always with some markings; subscore 1) lower breast to undertail-coverts (2); finer streaking on mid-breast, finer barring on flanks (1); broader, cleaner buff-white supercilium and more distinct mid-crown line (1). Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

N Krasnoyarsk Krai and N & C Yakutia, from S slopes of Putorana Mts E to R Anabar, and Verkhoyansk and Cherski Mts on upper R Yana and R Indigirka as far E as R Anyuy, along Siberian coast. Winters in Australia.

Descriptive notes

28–34 cm; 118–221 g; wingspan 68–71 cm. Smallest curlew, being similar in size to Tringa nebularia or T. melanoleuca, with short bill only... read more


Considered similar to N. phaeopus, but slightly shorter, more excited and higher-pitched,... read more


Breeds on N montane taiga (up to at least 950 m), often in river valleys; preferably with secondary... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, weevils, beetles, caterpillars and ants; also spiders and vegetable matter, including... read more


Breeds late May to early Aug. Forms loose colonies. Nest a shallow depression lined with grass, in open ground. Four eggs, sometimes three... read more


Migratory; primarily continental. Occurs on passage (late Jul to Oct) in S Siberia (e.g. L Baikal... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES I. Total population c. 180,000–200,000 birds; abundant in N Australia, with 180,000 birds; 250,000 birds recorded at... read more

Recommended citation

Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Little Curlew (Numenius minutus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).