Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis


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). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but 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.

Trend justification
The population trend is difficult to determine because of uncertainty over the extent of threats to the species (del Hoyo et al. 1996).


Behaviour This species is mostly sedentary but may undertake seasonal movements in parts of West Africa in relation to flooding and drought (both of which cause the species to move out of an area) (del Hoyo, et al. 1996). In Nigeria it undertakes local movements only, corresponding to water level changes, and in other parts of its range it does not migrate (Urban, et al. 1986). It is commonly found in pairs or small parties of up to six individuals (flocks occasionally exceed 20-60 individuals on the River Nile in Egypt (del Hoyo, et al. 1996)), but in the breeding season nesting pairs become territorial and usually disperse to nest singly (Cramp and Simmons 1983). In the Nile Delta, the species commonly nests in small colonies however, with up to 21 nests recorded on the roof of one house. The timing of the breeding season varies according to locality (Urban, et al. 1986, del Hoyo, et al. 1996), but it usually occurs before the rains in areas with seasonal rainfall (del Hoyo, et al. 1996). The species is mainly nocturnal, but is often crepuscular (Cramp and Simmons 1983, Urban, et al. 1986), sometimes foraging in the twilight hours of morning and evening (Cramp and Simmons 1983). Habitat This species occupies a wide variety of open land with sparse or no vegetation, including savanna and woodland clearings, open orchards, sandy or stony ground amidst thorny scrub, gardens in towns and villages (Cramp and Simmons 1983, Hayman, et al. 1986), gravel roads (Urban, et al. 1986), burnt woodland and semi-arid grassland (del Hoyo, et al. 1996). It is always found in the close proximity to water, especially on sandy riverbeds, riverside mudbanks, rocks mid-stream (Cramp and Simmons 1983, Hayman, et al. 1986), lake shores, mangroves (Urban, et al. 1986), grassy flats beside rivers and irrigated fields (del Hoyo, et al. 1996). It avoids steep broken terrain, desert and tall, dense vegetation, either in wetland or forest (Cramp and Simmons 1983). Diet This species is carnivorous and feeds exclusively on land (del Hoyo, et al. 1996), its diet consisting mainly of insects (e.g. beetles, grasshoppers) and crustaceans, but also of molluscs, worms, frogs, tadpoles and small rodents (Cramp and Simmons 1983, Urban, et al. 1986). Breeding site The nest of this species is a shallow scrape positioned on bare ground, sand-banks, the top of low flat rocks or on rocky islets in rivers (Cramp and Simmons 1983). It has also been recorded nesting on the flat roofs of buildings in Egypt (Cramp and Simmons 1983).


This species is threatened by habitat loss and degradation in Ghana wetlands owing to coastal erosion and proposed developments involving drainage and land reclamation (Ntiamoa-Baidu 1991). Utilisation The species is hunted and traded at traditional medicine markets in Nigeria (Nikolaus 2001).


Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Burhinus senegalensis. Downloaded from on 21/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/09/2020.