This small family has a largely Old World distribution, with only two of the nine species found in the American tropics. With their large eyes, long legs and run-stop gait, stone-curlews are reminiscent of plovers (Charadriidae) to which they are, indeed, most closely related. They are relatively large waders, mostly with stout to massive bills, and a slightly swollen tibio-tarsal joint, which is the origin of their alternative name “thick-knees”, though anatomically-speaking the joint is actually an ankle rather than a knee. Most species live in dry, open habitats, including savannas, grasslands and deserts, though some prefer the edges of rivers and lakes, and one (see below) is a beach specialist. Stone-curlews are essentially nocturnal or crepuscular, i.e. mainly active during dusk and dawn, and rest during the day by either standing or sitting in the shade of low vegetation, relying on their cryptic coloration to escape detection. Their food comprises insects and other invertebrates, though larger species often take reptiles and even small mammals. Silent by day, these birds become very vocal at dusk and the loud, wailing cries of some species have a mournful, eerie quality. Stone-curlews are generally sociable, most species forming flocks outside the breeding season. Only one member of this family occurs in Java.
Direct, usually low, with regular, shallow wingbeats. They often take off from the ground after a short run, and likewise, run a short distance after landing before settling into a walk.