Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus

Long-billed Curlew
World Curlew Day logo, designed by Nicola Duffy

The Long-billed Curlew is the Eurasian curlew’s American counterpart. Similar in size, they have a slightly longer bill, cinnamon-tinged underparts, and rusty patches on the wings. They were once found across the entire breadth of the United States, but as European settlers arrived and human populations grew and moved west across the country, cultivating and changing the land, they were wiped out across much of their range. In Summer, they are birds of short grasslands and prairies, using their long bills to probe for insects and earthworms. They are known for aggressively defending their nests against all comers, even eagles. In winter, some head to the coast, shifting to a diet of molluscs and crustaceans, while others migrate south to inland Mexico. The coastal birds tend to be more faithful to a territory, while the more sparse inland birds move around more in search of prey.

The species declined heavily in the late 19th and early 20th Century due to extensive hunting, but over the latter half of 20th century numbers began to slowly recover. By 2008 long-billed curlews were considered sufficiently widespread that their conservation status was moved from Near Threatened to Least Concern. However, despite being protected, threats remain from poaching, changing land use, and climate change as rising temperatures make parts of their breeding range inhospitable for chicks.

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