WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The smaller, striped-headed cousin of the Curlew is largely a passage migrant in the UK, though some 500 pairs stay to breed in the far north (northern Scotland and the Northern Isles). There is an element of uncertainty about the origin of its curious name. Perhaps the most convincing explanation is that the word derives from the same roots as ‘whimper’, referring to its shimmering, rapid flight call. Its old Gaelic name is Eun-bhealltuin, which translates as Beltane Bird, referring to its frequent appearance around the time of the Celtic Beltane festival a.k.a. May Day. This certainly corresponds to a peak period in Whimbrel migration.