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Eastern Curlew, Numenius madagascariensis

This is a large shorebird that looks most similar to the Long-billed Curlew, except that it is a little bit bigger. Its coloring is mostly brown and its differentiated by other curlews by its plain, non-patterned brown underwing. It has an unusually long bill that is slightly curved downward; the female’s bill is usually longer than the male’s bill. Both sexes have similar feather colors, with the male using his haunting call and display flights to catch the attention of a mate or to defend his territory.  When it is flying, the barred flight feathers can be seen, lighter under the wings and getting darker above. Being wary, they are quick to take flight. The wing beats are cautious and slow. It’s not only the largest curlew but most likely the world’s largest sandpiper, at  24 to 26 inches long and 43 inch wingspan. The body is allegedly 1.25 to 2.5 pounds which might be equaled by the Eurasian Curlew. Its particularly long bill at 5.0 to 7.9 inches in length, challenges the bill size of the closely related Long-billed Curlew as the longest bill for a sandpiper.

The Eastern Curlew is found on intertidal mudflats and sandflats, often with beds of sea grass, on sheltered coasts, particularly estuaries, bays, mangrove swamps, lagoons, and harbors. The curlew has very long legs, allowing them to wade in boggy areas and moorland within their breeding location, where as other shorter-legged waders are not able to go.

This bird spends the breeding season in northeastern Asia, including Siberia to Kamchatka, and Mongolia from mid-July to late September. Usually on boggy marshes and swampy moors. Their breeding habitat is made up of swampy and marshy wetlands and lakeshores. The nest is a low depression lined with grass. The size of their clutch is usually around 4. Most individuals spend the winter in coastal Australia, a few travel to South Korea, Thailand, Philippines, and New Zealand, from there they stay at estuaries, beaches, and salt marshes. During the time of migration, the Eastern Curlew frequently passes the Yellow Sea.

They use their long downwardly curved bill for probing for invertebrates in the mud. It might feed on solitary but it usually assembles in large flocks to roost or to migrate. Its bird call is a clear, sharp whistle, cuuue-reee, often repeated. They mainly eat small crabs and mollusks, crustaceans, marine worms, insects, larvae, and invertebrates. They hunt for food day and night, it is slow and cautious, stalking slowly on muddy and sandy flats, picking from the surface or probing deep with its long bill.

Since 2006, there an estimated 38,000 individuals throughout the world. It used to be classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, it became obvious that it was rarer than previously thought and therefore its status was updated to Vulnerable in 2010 IUCN red list of threatened species.

Image Caption: Far Eastern Curlew, also Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) – Cairns, Australia. Credit: DickDaniels/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis


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