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.
Biology: 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.