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the web of life in southern Africa

Numenius phaeopus (Common whimbrel) 

Kleinwulp [Afrikaans]; Ingoyi-ngoyi [Xhosa]; Amerikaanse regenwulp [Dutch]; Courlis corlieu [French]; Regenbrachvogel [German]; Maçarico-galego [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Scolopacidae

Numenius phaeopus (Common whimbrel)  Numenius phaeopus (Common whimbrel) 

Common whimbrel, California, USA. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]

Common whimbrel, circa 500 nautical miles offshore of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds in the circumpolar region above 55° North, heading south in the non-breeding season to the coastline of  continents and most islands south of 35° North (especially common in the tropics), including southern Africa. Here it is common along the entire coastline of the region, while it is a vagrant further inland, generally preferring coastal lagoons and estuaries, especially with sand and rocky intertidal habitats, mangroves or salt-marshes.

Distribution of Common whimbrel in southern Africa, bsed on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  



Recorded by Clem Hagner, Plettenberg Bay 1964, [© Transvaal Museum]


Movements and migrations

Most southern African birds probably originate from eastern Russia and Siberia, arriving in the region from August-October and staying until about late March and April. It eventually gets back to its breeding breed grounds in the period from May-June.


It mainly eats crustaceans, molluscs and annelids, doing most of its foraging at night, probing and pecking the ground in search of prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • invertebrates
    • crabs
      • Thalamita
      • Macropthalmus
      • Uca
      • Dotilla
      • Hymosoma
      • Cleistostoma
      • Sesarma
    • polychaete worms
    • Upogebia africana (Estuarine mudprawns)
    • molluscs
    • annelids
  • small fish


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.