An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the "Whimbrel"
Dec 29, 2016 09:33AM
By Paul Spear
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
This week’s Bird of the Week is the whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), a fairly large wader though mid-sized as a member of the curlew genus. The whimbrel is 15–19 inches in length, 30–35 inches in wingspan, and 9.5–17.4 oz in weight. I have seen many of these birds recently in our own Tijuana Estuary. Numbers were seriously depleted by market hunters in late 19th century, but have recovered somewhat since. The whimbrel is the most widespread of the curlews, nesting in the Arctic across North America and Eurasia, wintering on the coasts of six continents. Whimbrels tend to concentrate in flocks at a few favored spots in migration, so that the observer sees either many of them or else very small numbers. The name “whimbrel," originating in England, apparently began as a loose interpretation of the bird's call. It forages by walking on open flats, picking up items from surface or probing just below surface; despite long bill, does not seem to probe deeply. When feeding on crabs, it may break off legs and crush shells before swallowing the body of the crab.
Downy young leave their nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young feed themselves. Adults actively attack predators flying over nesting area, and will fly straight at human intruders, swerving aside at last moment. Age of young at first flight is about 5-6 weeks. Check out this bird and the many other species that inhabit our wonderful Tijuana Estuary.
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