by Bryce W. Robinson
The Long-billed Curlew has a bizarre courtship flight display, not unlike many other members of the family Scolopacidae. The male flies tirelessly in broad undulating circles, broadcasting a mournful whine into the sagebrush strewn hills. Having always been enamored by the spectacle, I made it a goal and was extremely pleased to capture the display on video.
If you haven’t heard of the Intermountain Bird Observatory’s Long-billed Curlew Project, I’d like to use the above video to make an introduction. Long-billed Curlews are facing threats in the west, on multiple levels. For many years now the impacts of landscape change have added stress to nesting curlews. Habitat loss from development, degradation from grazing, ATV recreation, etc. are all causing added stress to the birds ability to reproduce. On top of that, IBO has found that there is an issue with folks shooting curlews. What reasons there could be for shooting a curlew escape me, but it is an issue nonetheless and one that IBO attempts to overcome through education and outreach.
On top of these issues, these birds are facing threats off their breeding grounds as well. Contaminants on the wintering grounds add yet another stress to these birds. IBO has deployed satellite telemetry units on a handful of birds to fully understand their year round distribution and where particular populations may face threats.
Stephanie Coates, an all-star of bird biology, recently started her pursuit of a master’s degree in biology at Boise State University. She is working with IBO on their curlew project, and has started a website to chronicle her work and the work of the field crew. Follow along and check out live viewing of curlew movements via satellite imagery, great photos from the field crews, and more.