Great thick-knee

   ›      ›   Great thick-knee - Esacus recurvirostris

The great thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris) belongs to the family of stone-curlews, dikkops and thick-knees, Burhinidae.

The great thick-knee species are distributed in the Indian subcontinent, Iran, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. These thick-knee species are largely nocturnal. These thick-knees are monotypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Great Thick-knee Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Great thick-knee - Overview

  • Scientific name: Esacus recurvirostris
  • Species author: (Cuvier, 1829)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Oedicnemus recurvirostris Cuvier, 1829
  • Family: Burhinidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Great thick-knee, Chinese: 大石鸻, French: Grand Oedicnème, German: Krabbentriel, Spanish: Alcaraván piquigrueso indio, Russian: Большая рифовая авдотка, Japanese: ソリハシオオイシチドリ, Malay: Burung Kedidi Malam
  • Other names: great stone-curlew
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, Iran, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam
  • Diet and feeding habits: crabs, insects
  • IUCN status listing: Near Threatened (NT)
The great thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris) is closely related to beach thick-knee (Esacus magnirostris).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The great thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris) is a large stone-curlew, measuring 50 to 55 cm in length and weighing about 800 grams. The wingspan is 90 to 100 cm.

The upperparts of the great thick-knee are grayish sandy brown. There are blackish and whitish bands across the wing-coverts. There are white patches on the primaries. The chin and the throat are white. The breast is grayish brown. The underparts are white.

The forehead of these thick-knee species is white. A white patch encircles the eye and contrasting with the black ear-coverts, gives a spectacled appearance. In flight, the black and white flight feathers are visible on the upperwing. The underwing is mostly white.

The juvenile great thick-knee is slightly paler than the adults. The bill is large and the shape of the lower mandible gives an upturned appearance to the bill. The bill is black with a yellow base. The irises are pale yellow. The thick-knee call is a wailing whistling sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Great thick-knee - Esacus recurvirostris
Birds of India - Image of Great thick-knee - Esacus recurvirostris by Dr. Raju Kasambe

Birds of India - Photo of Great thick-knee - Esacus recurvirostris
Indian birds - Picture of Great thick-knee - Esacus recurvirostris by Swardeepak

Indian birds - Image of Great thick-knee - Esacus recurvirostris
Birds of India - Photo of Great thick-knee - Esacus recurvirostris by Thimindu

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The great thick-knee species are distributed in southeast Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, southern China (Yunnan and Hainan), northern Thailand, northeast Cambodia, Laos and northern Vietnam.

In India, these Great thick-knee species are distributed in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of these great thick-knee species in Iran are, Khouran Straits, Bahu Kalat (Gandu) Protected Area, Khor Jask, Chahbahar Bay, Hormoz island and Khor Konarak.

Ecosystem and habitat

These great thick-knee species do not normally occur in forests. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 100 meters.

The natural ecosystems of these thick-knee species include tropical and subtropical dry grasslands, estuaries, intertidal rocky, sandy and shingle shoreline, intertidal mudflats, riverbed shingle and rocks, freshwater lakes, rivers, streams and creeks.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these thick-knee species is mostly invertebrates. Large insects, crustaceans and other invertebrates are their primary food. The long massive bill is used to detect and dig up prey.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these great thick-knee species is from February to July in India. The breeding season is from March to June in Pakistan. The laying season is mainly from April to July in Sri Lanka.

The breeding sites are located on riverine shingle and pebble beds. The nest is a bare scrape. The typical thick-knee clutch contains a single egg.

Migration and movement patterns

The great thick-knee species are generally non-migrant resident birds.

The rise in water levels in rivers and lakes may force the thick-knees to move to a safer place. Post breeding, the juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the great thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris) is estimated to number about 1,000 to 25,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these thick-knee species is reported to be decreasing. Throughout its range it is reported to be rare to locally common. The generation length is 10.5 years. Its distribution size is about 10,500,000

The great thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris) is approaching the thresholds for being Vulnerable under the range size criterion, under the population trend criterion and under the population size criterion. Habitat loss and nest predation are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these thick-knee species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the thick-knee species and has listed it as "Near Threatened". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the great thick-knee (Esacus recurvirostris).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Esacus recurvirostris
Species:E. recurvirostris
Binomial name:Esacus recurvirostris
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened
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1.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Dr. Raju Kasambe | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
2.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Swardeepak | License: CC BY-SA 4.0
3.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Thimindu | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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