The Fascinating World of Thick-kneesBirds . Natural History . Video Diary
Thick-knees are a unique group of birds found worldwide, with ten different species that share similar physical characteristics such as yellow legs, black and yellow beaks, and big yellow eyes. Despite looking alike, thick-knees differ in behavior and habitat. Here we look at the Stone Curlew, or Eurasian Thick-knee, found in Hampshire and Wiltshire in the UK, which represents between a third and a half of the UK population.
Stone Curlews are migratory birds, spending summers in Europe and Asia, and winters in Africa. They have distinct differences from other thick-knee species, such as the non-migratory Senegal Thick-knee found across Africa. The Indian Thick-knee was once part of the Stone Curlew group, but it was split off a few years ago and is now considered a separate group. The Double-striped Thick-knee is another species found in South America, with a streamlined and dainty appearance. The Peruvian Thick-knee is found exclusively in Peru, while the Bush Thick-knee is found throughout Australia, except for the hottest regions. The massive Beach Thick-knee, with a huge upturned beak, is found around coastal areas of Australia.
Stone Curlews are ground-nesting birds that lay their eggs in simple nests made of small stones. They are territorial on their nesting grounds but are not territorial when away from them. They are communal birds, often seen flying off in groups of three. Stone Curlews migrate and are the only bird species in their family to do so. Their migration patterns have been affected by climate change, with some birds now wintering in the UK, mainly in Norfolk.
Conservationists have worked to protect and restore the habitat of Stone Curlews as their population has declined due to habitat loss and human interference. They have been successful in recovering the bird population in the UK, where it was once common. The RSPB has been instrumental in protecting and restoring their habitat, working with farmers to create plots for the birds and monitoring their populations. The Hampshire Ornithological Society has taken over the program, which has a team of around ten people to monitor Stone Curlews and help ensure their survival.
Stone Curlews require specific care and attention to thrive, and conservationists work with farmers to mark their nests and create safe zones around them. They monitor the birds closely, including ringing the chicks to identify them in the future. They also work to protect them from predators, such as crows and kites. The successful rearing of bird chicks is a critical factor in maintaining healthy bird populations, and factors such as food availability, weather conditions, and nest site quality all play a role in determining the success rate of chick rearing.
In conclusion, the fascinating world of thick-knees offers a unique glimpse into the diversity of bird species worldwide. Stone Curlews, in particular, have been the focus of conservation efforts due to their declining population. However, through the hard work of conservationists, their population has started to recover, and their unique characteristics and migratory behavior continue to amaze and inspire.
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