Friday, May 18, 2012

Long-billed Curlew

A couple days ago, during a RV birding trip, I went to the Riverhurst Ferry crossing east of Lucky Lake (Saskatchewan) to see Long-billed Curlews (Numenius americanus).  Several years ago I was in the area - mostly to take the ferry across Diefenbaker Lake - and happened to notice the three LBCUs grazing the pasture land near the ferry landing.  I've gone back most years since, and yes, there has always been at least one bird present.

This is the 2012 result....sorry, I was digiscoping (taking a photo through the lens of my spotting scope).  I'm not good at it.  In my defense, there was a breeze shaking the scope and my little pocket camera is so old it doesn't have the anti-shake business.

But, here are my photos

This is the largest North American member of the sandpiper family (Scolopacidae).  Obviously the long bill is used for probing into mud for various crustaceans and other such goodies....that's in their winter homes along the coasts of the southern US and marshy inland areas of Mexico.  They come north to the west-central prairies to breed.  Up here they poke around in the ground finding earthworms, fly larvae, adult insects and heading over to the shores of the local water bodies to graze the muddy shorelines.

The females are larger than the males (similar to other curlews); the males claim and defend a territory; the nest is a scrape on the ground; both partners will incubate the eggs.  The female may up and leave once the little ones are hatched, leaving dad to protect and pass on his bits of wisdom. 

According to Wikipedia, this bird is also called 'sicklebird' and 'candlestick bird'.

Candlestick Point in San Francisco was named after this indigenous bird, and subsequently Candlestick Park stadium inherited the name (and incidentally - the home of the 49ers, as in where Joe Montana, the greatest QB ever, played...just sayin'). 

Wiki goes on to say that the bird species had dramatically declined in the area by the early 20th century, being practically extinct in San Mateo County in 1916.  By the time the stadium was constructed in the 1950s, the last remnants of the flocks of 'candlestick birds" - which formerly numbered in the thousands - were being shot by hunters until, at least temporarily, none were left.

Wikipedia also has some great photos of the bird - link here

Also go to All About Birds. 

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