Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large and it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 53,400-88,200 pairs, which equates to 107,000-176,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). The global population has not been estimated following recent taxonomic splits. However Europe forms approximately 30% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 360,000-590,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2015). In Europe, trends show that in the short-term (1998-2013 and 2000-2012 respectively) the population was stable (EBCC 2015) or increasing (BirdLife International 2015).


The following information refers to the species's European range only: The species inhabits lowland heath, semi-natural dry grassland, infertile agricultural grassland, steppe on poor soil, desert and extensive sand-dunes (Tucker and Heath 1994). It breeds on open, bare ground or areas with little vegetation (Batten et al. 1990), and has adapted to arable land but only where crops are short or have an open structure during the breeding season, such as maize, carrots, sugar beet and sunflowers (Green 1988); intensively grown cereals are normally too tall and dense in spring to be used (Tucker and Heath 1994). Communal daytime roosts in autumn and winter in Spain occupy traditional sites which have some cover (e.g. shrubland, gravel pits, vineyards) and include both local birds and winter visitors (Barros 1995). It breeds in spring in most of its range (Hume and Kirwan 2013), with egg-laying from early April to June or early July (Snow and Perrins 1998). Breeding occurs between February and June in the Canary Islands and from April in the U.K.. The nest is a scrape on the ground, lined with a little grass or unlined, but often with a ring of stones or shells and pieces of vegetation around rim. It usually lays two eggs (Hume and Kirwan 2013). Northern and eastern European populations migrate in autumn to southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Snow and Perrins 1998, Hume and Kirwan 2013). Populations in Iberia are resident whilst the Canary Islands population remain within the island group, but sometimes move from island to island (Hume and Kirwan 2013).


The following information refers to the species's European range only: Pressures from habitat loss and disturbance have affected this species, particularly those associated with forestry, agricultural intensification, decline in sheep rearing in places, and human recreational pressure on coasts. Many birds are shot and trapped on migration in the Mediterranean region but numbers and effects on populations are uncertain. Collisions with overhead wires and fences, and predation by foxes also cause numerous losses (Hume and Kirwan 2013).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex I. Bern Convention Appendix II. The following information refers to the species's European range only: In the U.K. this is a Biodiversity Action Plan species and is the subject of a Species Recovery Programme carried out by English Nature and the RSPB, under which nests on arable farmland have been located and protected with the help of farmers and landowners. Agri-environment schemes such as the Countryside Stewardship Scheme are creating nesting areas for the species. Most important sites for the species are protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), National Nature Reserves (NNRs) or Ministry of Defence training areas (Batten et al. 1990).

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Careful management of important sites, including grazing by sheep or rabbits is needed. Continuation and expansion of agri-environment schemes and management would benefit this species (Batten et al. 1990). Conservation in Europe largely depends on future modifications of land-use policies and also on mutual understanding with farmers (Hume and Kirwan 2013). International legislation on hunting should be enforced. Make overhead wires and fences more visible. The impacts of predation and hunting should be assessed and suitable responses developed.


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Symes, A., Butchart, S., Taylor, J., Ashpole, J, Harding, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Burhinus oedicnemus. Downloaded from on 09/03/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 09/03/2021.