Stone curlew at Weeting Heath, photo by Elizabeth Dack

Rare Norfolk birds the focus of up close nest cam 

Thursday 23 April, 2020

Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s solar powered nest cam at NWT Weeting Heath is capturing live footage of a nesting pair of stone curlews: a distinctive rare bird which nests on the ground.  

Stone curlews are a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species and currently on the amber list. The best place to spot one of these fascinating birds is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Weeting Heath, but the reserve is closed due to coronavirus. This year NWT has set up a solar powered nest cam on the heath, which is providing fantastic views of the nest for bird watchers and wildlife fans to watch from home. 

Stone curlews are a migratory species, arriving back in Norfolk in March and April each year, having spent their winter around the Mediterranean and even south of the Sahara. 

James Symonds, Weeting Heath warden at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said: “People are getting a lucky view of a very rare sight of a stone curlew on the nest. It’s fantastic. There are 300 breeding pairs across Britain and two thirds of those are in Breckland. 

“We are lucky to have four breeding pairs on site at the moment. They nest on the bare ground and these birds have been there for about a week. Stone curlews are interesting because the male and female share parental care and they will incubate the eggs for around 26 days. Each will take it in turn and the changeover on the eggs roughly every 40 minutes. 

“With a bit of luck, we will fledge some chicks!” 

They go by many names unique to Norfolk including Thick knee, Wailing Heath Chicken, and the Norfolk Plover. Plumage-wise they are brown and streaked above, with a pale belly and a noticeable white wing-bar. They have a stubby, strong-looking bill and long yellowish-green legs. However, their most distinctive features are their large yellow eyes, which led to another of their historical Norfolk names – the goggle-eyed plover! 

Despite the shortness of the grass, the stone curlews are not always easy to spot as their brown-streaked plumage can look remarkably like a rabbit from a distance. Often, too, the birds sit motionless for long periods (particularly when they are on the nest) and it is not until they move across the ground in short, running bursts that they become obvious. Towards dusk though their activity levels rise and they start making their rather eerie, wailing calls. 

NWT Weeting Heath National Nature Reserve is one of the most important areas of heath in Breckland and one of the first nature reserves to be opened in Breckland. In addition to the stone curlew, it is home to a number of rare birds, plants and insects.

Watch the stone curlews live 

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