Beach thick-knee - A crabby tale

Beach thick-knee, also known as the Beach stone-curlew is a large, ground dwelling bird found in the islands of South-east Asia and Australia. Even though it is seen over a widespread area, the bird is considered as a near-threatened species and is quite uncommon across most of its range. It is very vulnerable to human interference, predation and loss of undisturbed coastlines.

On my visit to Andaman in Feb last year, this bird was very high on the list to see and photograph. But, to be realistic, I knew that the chances were quite low as there are very few individuals and they could be spread across so many different islands of the Andaman & Nicobar archipelago. When I landed up on the island of Little Andaman, there were reports of a sighting on one of the beaches there. It is an island and beaches are all over. So, didn’t get my hopes up too high.

One evening, we decided to take a chance at a particular beach where most of the reports were coming from. After some time of searching, we finally spotted two individuals. I just couldn’t believe it! These seemed like a pair and probably nesting somewhere nearby. They were quite a distance away from us, but still were very wary. They kept running around and kept moving away from us. We took a few record shots and left them alone. We then sat ourselves down on a bund, leading up to the water.

After a long wait, just as the sun started to go down, as luck may have it, one of the individuals flew down and landed on the beach, by the water, not very far from where we were sitting. Beautiful bird it was indeed.

Beach-Thick-knee-with-crab-little-andaman1 Beach thick-knee or Beach stone-curlew

As soon as it landed, it started swiftly walking up and down along the shoreline. Looked as if it was hungry and was on the lookout for an evening snack. Soon enough, the receding tide revealed something and the thick-knee was quick to grab onto it. It was a crab.


Thus began a crabby tale for the crab, its battle for survival with the thick-knee. The bird picked up the crab by one of its legs and threw it down. The intent here was to break the leg off and prevent the crab from scuttling away or using it against the curlew.


The crab, inspite of being limited by its defensive options, seemed to put up a brave face. It kept trying to threaten the approaching curlew by lifting up and waving its large forelegs.



However, the bird definitely had the upper hand and it seemed as if the curlew was systematically trying to incapacitate the crab by breaking off its legs, one by one. You can see one of the legs in the beak of the thick-knee in the image below.


The curlew went on with its job. Picking up the crab and flinging it down repeatedly.


Unfortunately, there was no means of an escape for the crab.


The curlew was flinging the crab across in different directions.


As was the intent of the thick-knee, the legs of the crab started breaking off. In the image below, a small piece can be seen flying off near one of the eyes of the curlew as the crab drops to the ground.


The process of picking up and flinging continued for a few more times.



With the job done and the crab not going anywhere, anymore, the thick-knee took some breather to preen. It refreshed itself and got ready for a good evening snack.


Having just hoped of getting to see this beautiful bird, it was highly satisfying and have to admit, lucky, to have been able to spend some quality time with it. A lovely bird and an equally wonderful encounter.

Hope you enjoyed the tale :) Let me know your thoughts below.


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