The Long-billed Curlew is North America's largest shorebird, seen here in its breeding habitat, a western grassland. They may be the largest, but they're also among the rarest. Their numbers are declining as arid grasslands disappear. Because curlews depend on very different environments for breeding and wintering, changes in either habitat affect them. The Nature Conservancy and American Bird Conservancy are both protecting habitat in the prairies of Montana. And in Mexico, they're working closely with Pronatura Noreste.
Long-billed Curlew - Singing over the Grassland
Written by Dennis Paulson
This is BirdNote!
[Display song of Long-billed Curlew]
In spring, the male Long-billed Curlew sings his bubbling song, stitching a zigzag across the sky. Seeing it rise on rapidly beating wings, then glide down, we’re witnessing its mating display. We’re seeing North America’s largest shorebird in its breeding habitat, a western grassland. [Display song of Long-billed Curlew].
Long-billed Curlews may be the largest, but they’re also among the rarest. Their numbers are declining as arid grasslands disappear. Come early autumn, the curlews will depart the prairie to spend the winter in rice fields of California and on mudflats of our southern coasts. Some will continue into Mexico. [Flight calls of Long-billed Curlew].
As one ornithologist* says, “The beach is a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to raise a family there.” So, because curlews depend on very different breeding and wintering environments, changes in either habitat affect them.
The Nature Conservancy and American Bird Conservancy are protecting habitat in the prairies of Montana. And in Mexico, they’re working closely with Pronatura Noreste. The goal is to keep the beautiful song of the curlew in our spring skies [Display song of Long-billed Curlew] and that long, curved bill on the beach in winter. [Flight/alarm calls of Long-billed Curlew].
To learn more, visit our website, birdnote.org. I’m Mary McCann.
Sounds of the Long-billed Curlew provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Display call recorded by R.S. Little; flight call by G.A. Keller;
Flight call at beach recorded by Martyn Stewart of naturesound.org
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and produced by John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org May 2015/2016/2019 Narrator: Mary McCann
• Dr. Dennis Paulson