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Long-billed Curlew

Numenius americanus

Length: 22 inches Wingspan: 36 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Extremely long, decurved bill.  largest of the sandpipers

Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanusThe Long-billed Curlew is the largest of the sandpipers in the state, and is easily recognizable by its extremely long, decurved bill.  Their extremely long bills are used to feed on burrowing wolf spiders in South Dakota.  It is a sandpiper of the dry grasslands and prairies of the West, and is only found on mudflats, marshes, and wetlands during migration and in winter.  Long-billed Curlews have decreased greatly from their historical range and populations, and are still declining in recent decades.

Habitat: Summers on grassland and sagebrush prairies, preferably with wet meadows nearby.

Diet: Mostly insects, also eggs, young birds, toads, and occasionally berries and seeds. 

Nesting: May and June.  The nest of a Long-billed Curlew is a depression on the ground, lined with small amounts of grasses, weeds, and leaves.  The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, the young quickly leave the nest, and must find their own food.  However, both parents do tend to the young and protect them from harm.

Song: Loud, two-tone call, with 2nd note higher than the first.

Migration: Summers in grasslands in the western United States.  Winters in the southern U.S. and northern Mexico.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Long-billed Curlew sightings

Similar Species: Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Bristle-thighed Curlew

Conservation Status: Greatly reduced from historical levels, and still declining in recent decades. Range was once much further east than it is today.  Grasslands on which it relies have been converted to agriculture in many parts of its range.  Despite the recent declines, populations are not currently in threat of extinction, and the IUCN lists the Long-billed Curlew as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Long-billed Curlew

2) BirdWeb - Long-billed Curlew

3) Audubon Guide - Long-billed Curlew

Photo Information: July 27th, 2009 - Antelope Island, near Salt Lake City, Utah - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: For additional Long-billed Curlew photos, click on the image chips or links near the bottom of the page.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Long-billed Curlew - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon summer breeder and migrant in the western part of the state.  Accidental in the east.

Additional Long-billed Curlew Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanusLong-billed Curlew - Numenius americanusLong-billed Curlew - Numenius americanusLong-billed Curlew - Numenius americanusLong-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus