Look out for Curlews

Bush Stone-curlews were released into the Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary in early October 2014 (read more of the story below).

Some of these birds have been tracked jumping the fence at Mulligans Flat and heading into the adjacent suburbs – particularly Forde.

If you see a Bush Stone-curlew:

  1. Do not approach it, if you do it will naturally cower and sit still, trying to hide (see below)
  2. Immediately text-message our curlew ecologist Kate at the number in the image below with the location of the bird (street address and description), your contact details, and whether you think the bird is in immediate danger or already injured
  3. Keep cats and dogs away – in Forde it is against the law to let cats outside


Generally we want people to leave the birds to go about their business – the less handling the better.

If you think a bird is injured, include that in your text message and we will call you.

If you have other concerns about a bird’s welfare, for example, it is in a dangerous situation like wandering on busy roads or there are roaming pets around, or the bird is causing a nuisance, let us know.

If you are pet owner, it is very important to keep cats in (as per the law for Forde) and dogs under control at all times.

A first-hand experience from a Forde resident in October 2014:

Rowena [our ecologist has named each curlew] was first seen looking into our front window in Forde at about 11.30 am. We thought the bird would go away so we left her. On our return home, about 5 hours later, we found her sill in the front garden resting next to our drive way. We thought she may be injured, noticed the leg flag, and caught her. We then contacted a wildlife carer who came around and took Rowena away.

Rowena was later returned to the Sanctuary and re-released.

Bush Stone-curlews will ‘freeze and cower’ when humans are near them, trying to camouflage with their surrounds and trying not to be seen. This behaviour does not indicate they are injured. Do not pick them up because they are ‘sitting still and not fleeing’. Just let them be and contact us and we will discuss the situation further with you.

Bush Stone-curlews will naturally 'freeze and cower' when they sense danger - they are not necessarily injured

Bush Stone-curlews will naturally ‘freeze and cower’ when they sense danger – they are not necessarily injured

Here is a brochure with further background information, and a post-card with a map on it you can print and post to us if you have seen one and want to send in the record.

Bringing Back Bush Stone-curlews

Bush Stone-curlews are an amazing creature that have been locally extinct for nearly half a century. They are large, ground living birds, which rest amongst tussocky grasses, leaf litter, logs or fallen timber during the day.

At night bush stone-curlews come out to feed, and have an eerie, high pitched, far-carrying call, often likened to someone screaming or wailing being most active on moonlit nights.

Masters of camouflage, they are hard to see during the day, and are more often heard than seen.  If threatened, they will often crouch down on the ground, hoping to blend into the surroundings and not be seen.

Once found across much of Australia in lowland open woodland, Bush Stone‑curlews have declined in south‑east Australia due to clearing of their habitat and because foxes and feral cats eat their vulnerable eggs and chicks.

Bush Stone-Curlews

Why return Bush Stone-curlews to our woodlands?

We are taking a pro-active approach to help conserve the species in southern Australia.  Our aim is to establish a wild, self-sustaining population of Bush Stone-curlews in the Capital Region. We are starting at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, a protected, predator free area.

These birds are an important feature of woodland landscapes, helping control insect and small animal populations, and providing a character to the landscape.  As a focal species they will also help us tell the story of woodland decline and rejuvenation through their reintroduction

Curlew Reintroduction

How is the reintroduction going?

In 2014 we sourced 11 immature Bush Stone-curlews from The Nature Conservation Working Group in Albury (‘the Lubkes’ and others).  These birds were transported to Mulligans Flat in June and acclimatised to their new environment.  Volunteers fed the birds daily and they were under constant video surveillance as they settled in. The birds were released into the Sanctuary more broadly in October, when insect abundance had escalated to help facilitate a successful release.  The first group of birds have been banded so individuals can be recognised. The survival and movement of these birds will be monitored in an ongoing research program.

The 2015 release is now well underway and we have an additional ten birds to add to the 2014 release. We are also looking for organisations, families or individuals to sponsor a curlew. Sponsors can name the bird and will be given the opportunity to ‘meet’ the bird. We will also place the sponsor’s logo/name acknowledging their support on this website. Sponsorship is tax deductible and we are asking $500 per bird, if you are interested please contact us using the form at the end of this page. However, this endeavour is not for the faint of heart. It’s a jungle out there and our curlews can fly outside the safety of the Sanctuary fence and risk being eaten by foxes and cats. Last year some birds survived the excursion outside the fence while others did not. Rowena the curlew (pictured below) spent almost a week in the suburb of Forde hanging out near the café before being collected and returned to the Sanctuary where she has stayed ever since. It looks like love is now in the air with Rowena setting her eyes firmly on Herbie as a suitable mate (

Meet the 2015 birds 

Bird Number Sex Name comments
C3 FEMALE Very large lady both in height and girth. She doesn’t take kindly to being handled and expresses her distaste with loud vocal grumblings
C2 FEMALE A large healthy bird with a calm quiet attitude. This is one strong classy lady who is calm in the face of adversity.
C6 FEMALE This medium sized bird likes things to be a certain way. When things don’t go her way she gets in a bit of a flap.
C9 FEMALE This girl can often go unnoticed but don’t be fooled she is one slippery eel. After a possum ripped a hole in the aviary she escaped and spent a little under a week on the loose before being returned to her flock. She also has a very subtle red tinge to her feathers.
C7 FEMALE This tiny lass is a relaxed under any situation. Nothing much fazes this little lady.
A3 MALE This guy is the biggest of our curlews and he is a no nonsense type of bird. When being handled for a health check-up he managed to hit the vet in the stomach winding him.
D0 MALE Another large male, this guy is very vocal and will let you know when he’s not happy.
A5 MALE This bird is cunning. He is always first to the dinner table sometimes even before our volunteers have left the aviary.
D1 MALE This male is on the smaller side but is a calm and relaxed bird who is cautious yet excited at feed time.
D8 MALE This is the smallest of our males but what he lacks in size he makes up for in attitude – he also has a lovely smoky grey colour to his feathers giving him the distinguished look


Bush Curlew

This project is unique in a conservation reserve adjacent to a large urban centre. Reintroductions elsewhere, such as in southern and far western NSW, have been on rural lands or in remote conservation reserves. Living on the urban edge may present some challenges for our curlews – they may jump the fence!

We aim to increase our understanding of these birds, improve future reintroductions and monitoring methods, contribute to woodland restoration, and highlight to the wider community the plight of this iconic woodland species.


Help us bring these birds back by signing up as a buddy or sponsoring a curlew below…


Thanks to Canberra Birds Fund for their contribution towards this project.