Monday, April 12, 2010

At the coast... Whimbrel

WhimbrelWhimbrel, Newport, Oregon on 5 March 2010 by Greg Gillson.


Though common as a coastal spring and fall migrant, a few Whimbrel can usually be found along the Pacific NW coast in winter, especially from the central Oregon coast southward. Such is the bird photographed above. Similarly, a few non-breeding birds may be found through the summer. They are rare inland.

There are three main populations. They breed in the Arctic of Eurasia, Siberia, and North America (mainly Alaska).

Whimbrels are very obvious birds of estuary mudflats and outer sand beaches. There they probe for marine invertebrates in flocks sometimes up to 300 birds or more. Their calls are a long and loud series of whistled notes.

The Whimbrel, with the striped head, curved bill, and buffy underwings is similar in the Pacific NW only to the inland-breeding Long-billed Curlew and the very rare Bristle-thighed Curlew.

The Long-billed Curlew is rather rare on the coast in winter (best winter location in Pacific NW is Humboldt Bay, California) and has very extensive cinnamon wings. It nests in agricultural fields and prairies well east of the Cascades, from SW Canada southward.

The Bristle-thighed Curlew has a distinctive buffy rump and tail. They have only been found a couple of times in the Pacific NW during migration between their Hawaiian wintering islands and their very restricted Alaska breeding grounds.

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