Long-billed Curlew | Numenius americanus
Long-billed Curlew Long-billed Curlew Territory

Last COSEWIC designation: November 2002
SARA risk category: Special Concern

Reason for Designation:
The species is associated with prairie habitat that has declined and is projected to decline further. The global population is in decline.

Status History: Designated Special Concern in April 1992. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2002. Last assessment based on an update status report.

Description: The Long-billed Curlew is the largest shorebird in Canada. It has a very long, slender and downcurved bill. Its upper parts are brownish and its lower parts are pinky-buff. Its long legs are grey.

Distribution and Population: In Canada, the Long-billed Curlew has been extirpated from southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan; the population in southwestern Saskatchewan has been declining; the southern Alberta and British Columbia populations have also been declining. There is no estimate of the total Canadian population of Long-billed Curlews because of the fact that the populations are dispersed in small pockets of available habitat over a very large territory.

Habitat: The Long-billed Curlew is usually found in grasslands, where there is bare ground, shade and abundant invertebrate preys. Nests are built in short-grass and mid-grass prairies and in grassy meadows, on flat sites that are located close to wetter areas. Long-billed Curlews will use areas that have been lightly or moderately grazed. During migration and in wintering areas, Long-billed Curlews are usually found along beaches and mudflats, although some are also found in prairie environments during the migration.

In British Columbia, Long-billed Curlews usually arrive from the wintering areas in early March to early April, while they return to Saskatchewan from early to mid-April. Breeding pairs are often found in loose colonies. Long-billed Curlews often use the same territories year after year. Egg-laying usually begins by mid to late May in British Columbia and by early May in Saskatchewan. Both adults share in the incubation of the eggs. Incubation lasts from 27 to 30 days. In both British Columbia and Saskatchewan, the return migration begins in July, with some flocks remaining until mid-August. Long-billed Curlews can live 8 to 10 years. The mortality of chicks is high and reproduction is thus low.

Threats: Agriculture is a limiting factor for Long-billed Curlews, since their habitat has been and is being reduced by cultivation. Use of pesticides in the breeding areas may be contributing to the species' low reproduction, since eggshell-thinning and mortality from lethal residues have been found.

Protection: Species that have been designated at risk by COSEWIC since the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was written must be added to Schedule 1 through a regulatory amendment. If Long-billed Curlew is added to Schedule 1, it will benefit from the protections afforded by SARA.The Long-billed Curlew is protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1917.

Long-billed Curlew Species at Risk
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