An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Long-Billed Curlew
Nov 10, 2016 10:32AM ● Published by Paul Spear
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An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Long-Billed Curlew is presented by Bryan Brillhart Photography.
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This week’s “Bird of the Week” the long-billed curlew (Numenius americanus), is the largest North American shorebird of the family Scolopacidae. It has a very long, decurved bill, which is longer on adult females than on males or juveniles. It is mottled brown overall, with cinnamon underwings. It is similar in size, shape, and color to the Marbled Godwit, but the curlew's decurved bill distinguishes it from the upturned bill of the Marbled Godwit. The species is native to central and western North America. In the winter, the species migrates southwards, as well as towards the coastline. Long-billed Curlews eat insects, marine crustaceans, and bottom-dwelling marine invertebrates. The remarkably long, downcurved bill allows curlews to forage for earthworms and during nesting, males begin by making a simple, shallow scrape in the ground. Females also contribute, using the breast and bill to shovel out a depression in the ground for nesting. Once the depression is formed, materials such as pebbles, bark, animal droppings, grass, stems, twigs, and seeds are all possible materials used for lining the nest, which is about 8 inches across and 3 inches deep. Long-billed Curlews are often seen probing for food during the breeding season in groups, in pairs, or by themselves. Around the nest, however, curlews are highly territorial and exhibit a variety of threat displays. When flying, curlews jump into the air to take off and then alternate between flapping and gliding. I am always struck by the incredibly long bill of this bird when I encounter them in our own Tijuana Estuary. Get out and enjoy the great variety of bird species we are blessed with in Imperial Beach.