Water Thick-knee

©Robert hofmeyr
©Shem Compion


Water thick-knee - Burhinus vermiculatus

Previously known as water dikkop

Water Thick-knee Appearance

The water thick-knee is a plover like bird, around 40 cm in height. Males and females are alike, with a light brown upper body, streaked with dark brown. Conspicuous grey wing bars are visible when the bird is on the ground.

The underparts of the water thick-knee are light in colour, with brown streaking on the chest. The eyes are yellow or pale green, with a black bill and yellow to green legs.

The water thick-knee is slightly smaller than the spotted thick-knee.


The water thick-knee, being mostly aquatic, feeds on molluscs, small fish, insects and sometimes on termites.

Water Thick-knee Breeding

The water thick-knee is monogamous and nests close to water. The nest is a scrape in the ground, hidden in bushes or rocks. Two eggs are laid and incubated for around 24 days, by both parents. The young are reared by both parents.

Water Thick-knee Behaviour

The water thick-knee is normally solitary, outside of the breeding season. They are mainly nocturnal. They can be found up to 1 km from water when feeding. This bird generally runs away, rather than flying, when threatened. This thick-knee normal only calls at night.



Water Thick-knee Distribution and Habitat

The water thick-knee is found along the edge of lakes, estuaries, mangroves and rivers. Their distribution is mainly along the coastline, from Cape Town to Cape Vidal, but they are also found in the Kruger National Park.