Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis) - Wiki
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[Photo] Eskimo Curlew, Numenius borealis, woodcut. Source: Game Birds, Wild-Fowl and Shore Birds of Massachusetts and Adjacent States, Massachusetts State Board Agriculture. Date 1912. Author Edward Howe Forbush (1858-1929, author and woodcuts)
The Eskimo Curlew or Northern Curlew (Numenius borealis) is/was a medium-sized New World shorebird. It is believed to be extinct.
Adults had long dark greyish legs and a long bill curved slightly downwards. The upperparts were mottled brown and the underparts were light brown. They showed cinnamon wing linings in flight. They were similar in appearance to the Hudsonian Curlew, the American subspecies of the Whimbrel, but smaller in size. In the field, the only certain way to distinguish the Eskimo Curlew are its unbarred undersides of the primaries (Townsend, 1933). The call is poorly understood, but includes clear whistling sounds.(Alderfer 2006)
Eskimo Curlew formed a species pair with the Asian Little Curlew, Numenius minutus, but is slightly larger, longer-winged, shorter legged and warmer in plumage tone than its Asian relative.
They bred on the tundra of western arctic Canada and Alaska. Nests were located in open areas on the ground and are difficult to locate.
Eskimo Curlews migrated to Argentina. They were formerly very rare vagrants to western Europe, but there have, of course, been no recent records.
Eskimo Curlews picked up food by sight, as well as feeding by probing. They ate mostly berries and insects, but also snails during migration.
A comparison of dates and migratory patterns leads to the conclusion that Eskimo Curlews and American Golden-Plover were the most likely shorebirds to have attracted the attention of Christopher Columbus to nearby land after 65 days at sea out of sight of land on his first voyage. In the 1800s millions of Eskimo Curlews followed migration routes from the present Yukon and Northwest Territories, flying east along the northern shore of Canada, then south over the Atlantic Ocean to South America in the winter. When returning to North America, they would fly north though the Great Plains. (Kaufman, 1996)
The Eskimo Curlew is placed with all other curlews in the genus Numenius. It was formerly placed in the separate genus Mesoscolopax.
At one time, the Eskimo Curlew may have been one of the most numerous shorebirds in North America with a population in the millions. As many as 2 million birds per year were killed near the end of the 19th century. The last confirmed sightings were in 1962 on Galveston Island, Texas (photographed) and on Barbados in 1963 (specimen). There was an unconfirmed report of 23 birds in Texas in 1981, and more recent additional unconfirmed reports from Texas, Canada (1987), and Argentina (1990). No confirmed record of this species has been reported in South America since 1939.
One of the most important food sources was the Rocky Mountain Locust Melanoplus spretus. This species extinction circa 1902 may be a partial cause of the Eskimo Curlew's decline. Habitat destruction at wintering grounds in the pampas is also implicated as preventing any recovery.
This species is fully protected in Argentina, Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Hunting has been outlawed since around 1916.
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