Middle English, from Anglo-French curleu, of imitative origin
First Known Use: 14th century
Any of eight species (genus Numenius) of shorebirds having a sickle-shaped bill that curves downward at the tip, a streaked, gray or brown body, and a long neck and legs. Curlews breed inland in temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and migrate far south. They eat insects and seeds during migration but feed on worms and fiddler crabs while wintering on marshes and coastal mudflats. The eastern curlew is the largest species (24 in., or 60 cm, long); the common, or Eurasian, curlew, almost as large, is the largest European shorebird. The Eskimo curlew is now virtually extinct.