Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Distribution: The long-billed curlew, Numenius americanus, breeds from south-central British Columbia, southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, and southern Manitoba south to east-central California, central Nevada, central Utah, central New Mexico, and northern Texas, and east to southwestern North Dakota, northwestern South Dakota, north-central Nebraska, and southwestern Kansas. It winters from Washington, extreme northern Mexico, southern Texas, southern Louisiana, southern Alabama, and coastal South Carolina south to southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Veracruz, and the Yucatan Peninsula) and southern Florida, irregularly through northern Central America to Honduras and Costa Rica (A.O.U. 1998). The long-billed curlew is a fairly common summer resident and migrant in Utah, especially through the central and more northern valleys. It is less common in the Colorado River drainage. This species lives and breeds in higher and drier meadowlands than many other shorebird species (Hayward et al. 1976).

Ecology: In Utah, long-billed curlews that nest around the Great Salt Lake start to arrive on the breeding grounds during the last week in March, and establish territories by mid-April. Birds in northern Utah arrive later and remain longer than curlews in other parts of the range, probably as a result of climate differences. Foods taken are diverse, including crustaceans, mollusks, worms, toads, the adults and larvae of insects, and sometimes berries (Bent 1929) and nesting birds (Sadler and Maher 1976). The long-billed curlew forages by probing and pecking (Johnsgard 1981). Clutch initiation dates also varied with climate, and in northern Utah were started from mid-April to mid-May (Paton and Dalton 1994). Nests found in Box Elder County and Cache County, Utah were typically a grass-lined depression located in a clump of grass (Forsythe 1972). Female long-billed curlews are monogamous and lay only one clutch each season. Clutch size is typically 4 eggs (Redmond and Jenni 1986). Young are precocial and tended by both adults (Baicich and Harrison 1997).

Habitat Requirements: Long-billed curlews have four essential nesting habitat requirements in the northwestern United States: (1) short grass (less than 30 cm tall), (2) bare ground components, (3) shade, and (4) abundant vertebrate prey (Pampush 1980). They seem to be most successful nesting in mixed fields with adequate, but not tall, grass cover and fields with elevated points (Cochran and Anderson 1987). Uncultivated rangelands and pastures support most of the continental long-billed curlew breeding population (Johnsgard 1981, Pampush 1980). Curlews tend to place their nests near manure piles or other conspicuous objects, camouflaging them from aerial predators (Cochran and Anderson 1987). At the Great Salt Lake, the ground is relatively level, and curlews prefer to nest near the edges of barren alkali flats (Paton and Dalton 1994, Wolfe 1931).


  • Text modified from: Parrish, J. R., F. P. Howe, and R. E. Norvell. 1999. Utah Partners in Flight draft conservation strategy. UDWR publication number 99-40. Utah Partners in Flight Program, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City.