Numenius americanus
(Long-billed Curlew)

Order: Charadriiformes
Order Description: Shorebirds, Gulls, Terns
Family: Scolopacidae
Family Description: Sandpipers and Phalaropes

Physical Description:
20-26" (51-66 cm). Tall shorebird with a very long (4-8 1/2"), sickle-shaped bill. Warm buffClick word for definition-brown mottling above; brown streaking on neck and on lighter belly. In flight, shows cinnamon wing linings. Long, gray legs. Immature has a much shorter bill and less streaking on breast and throat.

Similar Species- Whimbrel, Ibis

A loud cur-lee, ascending in pitch. Also a short alarm trill kli-li-lili-lili.

Breeds from southwestern Canada, south to eastern Washington, northeastern California, Nevada, Utah, southern Colorado, New Mexico and northern Texas, and east to southwestern Kansas. Winters from central California, southern Arizona (rarely), northern Mexico, and parts of Gulf Coast states, south to southern Mexico, and irregularly to Central America.

Found in prairies and grassy meadows, generally near water. During migrationClick word for definition and in winter, also found on beaches and mudflats. In Idaho, prefers open, recently-grazed shrub steppe containing short vegetation for nesting; often feeds in agricultural areas.

Feeds on insects (grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, etc.). Eats some berries. During migration, also feeds on crayfishes, crabs, snails, and toads. In Idaho, grasshoppers and carabid beetles are dominant in chick diet. May probe into loose soil for insect larvae. Predation on nestling birds has been observed.

Forages on ground. Idaho study found adults foraged within 10 km of their nest sites; minimum home range approached 1000 ha. Individuals buildnests on ground, frequently in depressions or on slopes. Will sometimes nest on platform. Breeding density has been reported as: about 5-7 males/100 ha in Idaho; 1 pair/6-7 km2 in Saskatchewan; up to 15 territories in 10.4 km2 in Washington In Idaho, predators include canids, mustelids, feral cats, magpies, gulls, and raptors; grazing livestock have damaged nests.

Curlews arrive in southwestern Idaho in late March. Eggs are laid over 4-7 days. clutchClick word for definition size varies from 3- 5 eggs (in Idaho, average is near 4). Incubation lasts 28-30 days; both sexes incubateClick word for definition eggs. Nestlings are precocialClick word for definition. Young are tended by both parents. Fledging lasts from mid-June until end of July, and success is greater for early nesters. By mid-August, most curlews have departed Idaho.

Element Code: ABNNF07070
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3,NTMB
National Rank: N5B,N5N

Important State References:
Jenni, D., R.L. Redmond, and T. Bicak. 1982. Behavioral ecology and habitat relationships of Long-billed Curlews in western Idaho. USDI Bur. Land Manage. Boise District, Boise. 234 pp.

Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.