Eskimo Curlews were about 12 or 13 inches in length. Adults had long dark greyish legs and a long bill curved slightly downwards. The upperparts were mottled brown and the underparts were light brown. They showed cinnamon wing linings in flight. They were similar in appearance to the Hudsonian Curlew, the American subspecies of the Whimbrel, but smaller in size. In the field, the only certain way to distinguish the Eskimo Curlew are its unbarred undersides of the primaries (Townsend, 1933). The call is poorly understood, but includes clear whistling sounds.
Eskimo Curlew formed a species pair with the Asian Little Curlew, Numenius minutus, but is slightly larger, longer-winged, shorter legged and warmer in plumage tone than its Asian relative.