Long-Billed curlew (Numenius americanus)

Federal Register | Recovery | Critical Habitat | Conservation Plans | Petitions | Life History

Listing Status:   

General Information

The Long-billed curlew is a large, long-legged shorebird with a very long, decurved bill. Body plumage is rich buff throughout tinged with cinnamon or pink, and with upperparts streaked and barred with dark brown; underwing-lining contrasting cinnamon, and upper surface of remiges contrasting orange-brown. Sexes similar in appearance, but female averages larger with longer bill than male. Juvenile distinguished from adult by wing-coverts, which have dark-brown centers but lack dark-brown barring and pale notches. Juvenal tertials also more brightly marked than in adult, with darker, wider central stripes and cinnamon-buff versus grayish-buff ground color; underparts may also be less prominently streaked than in adults, and bill distinctly shorter, especially in newly fledged birds.

References cited in Species Profile

  • Allen, J. N. 1980. The ecology and behavior of the Long-billed Curlew in southeastern Washington. Wildl. Monogr. 73:1-67.
  • Boland, J. M. 1988. Ecology of North American shorebirds: latitudinal distributions, community structure, foraging behaviors, and interspecific competition. Phd Thesis. Univ. of California, Los Angeles.
  • Campbell, R. W., N. K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. M. Cooper, and G. W. Kaiser. 1990.The birds of British Columbia, Vol. 2: diurnal birds of prey through woodpeckers. R. Br. Columbia Mus. Victoria.
  • Chandler, R. J. 1989. North Atlantic shorebirds. Facts on File, New York.
  • Dugger, Bruce D. and Katie M. Dugger. 2002. Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/628
  • Fellows, S. D., and S. L. Jones. 2009. Status assessment and conservation action plan for the Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus). U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Technical Publication, FWS/BTP-R6012- 2009, Washington, D.C.
  • Hooper, T. D. and M. D. Pitt. 1996. Breeding bird communities and habitat associations in the grasslands of the Chilocotin region, British Columbia. Canada-British Columbia Partnership Agreement on Forest Resource Development: FRDA II.
  • Jenni, D. A., R. L. Redmond, and T. K. Bicak. 1981. Behavioral ecology and habitat relationships of Long-billed Curlew in western Idaho. Dep. Int. Bur. Land Manage. Boise District, Idaho.
  • King, R. 1978. Habitat use and related behaviors of breeding Long-billed Curlews.Master's Thesis. Colorado State Univ. Fort Collins.
  • Pampush, G. J. 1980. Status report on the Long-billed Curlew in the Columbia and Northern Great Basins. U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Portland, OR.
  • Pampush, G. J. and R. G. Anthony. 1993. Nest success, habitat utilization and nest-site selection of Long-billed Curlews in the Columbia Basin, Oregon. Condor 95:957-967.
  • Paulson, D. 1993. Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest. Univ. of Washington Press, Seattle.
  • Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
  • Skagen, S. K. and F. L. Knopf. 1993. Toward conservation of mid-continental shorebird migration. Conserv. Biol. 7:533-541.
  • Wolfe, L. R. 1931. The breeding Limicolae of Utah. Condor 33:49-59.

    Current Listing Status Summary
    Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed
    Mountain-Prairie Region (Region 6) Wherever found

    » Federal Register Documents

    Federal Register Documents
    Date Citation Page Title
    1989-01-06 00:00:00.0 54 FR 554 579 ETWP; Animal Notice of Review; 54 FR 554 579
    2004-06-04 00:00:00.0 69 FR 31632 31635 Availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report for an Incidental Take Permit for the Multiple Habitat Consrevation Program, Carlsbad, CA
    1994-11-15 00:00:00.0 59 FR 58982 59028 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species.
    1982-12-30 00:00:00.0 47 FR 58454 58460 Review of Vertebrate Wildlife for Listing as End. or Thr. Species
    1985-09-18 00:00:00.0 50 FR 37958 37967 Review of Vertebrate Wildlife; Notice of Review; 50 FR 37958-37967
    1991-11-21 00:00:00.0 56 FR 58804 58836 ETWP; Animal Candidate Review for Listing as Endangered or Threatened Species; 56 FR 58804 58836

    » Recovery

    No recovery information is available for the Long-Billed curlew.

    » Critical Habitat

    No critical habitat rules have been published for the Long-Billed curlew.

    » Conservation Plans

    Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) (learn more)
    HCP Plan Summaries
    Cal. Dept. of Corrections Statewide Electrified Fence Project
    MHCP, City of Carlsbad Habitat Management Plan
    MSCP, City of Chula Vista Subarea Plan
    MSCP, City of La Mesa Subarea Plan
    MSCP, City of Poway Subarea Plan
    MSCP, City of San Diego Subarea Plan
    MSCP, County of San Diego Subarea Plan
    San Diego Gas & Electric

    » Petitions

    » Life History

    Habitat Requirements

    Short-grass or mixed prairie habitat with flat to rolling topography while breeding; tidal estuaries, wet pasture habitats and sandy beaches while wintering; wide range of habitats used during migration. Nests are a shallow depression in the ground, with scraping initiated by male. Nest lining material is variable, but may include small pebbles, bark, grass, small stems and twigs, seeds and cheatgrass leaves as well as droppings from livestock, rabbits and Canada geese.

    Food Habits

    Entirely carnivorous, feeding on terrestrial insects, marine crustaceans, and benthic invertebrates.

    Movement / Home Range

    Breeding range covers much of the northwest U.S. and upper Great Plains, as well as southern portions of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Wintering range includes costal and central portions of California, costal Baja California, Texas' Gulf coast, and much of Mexico. Although poorly understood, migration for Long-billed Curlews is described as short distance relative to other Scolopacidae and Numenius breeding in North America.


    Pesticides and chemicals, possibly picked up from wintering areas, as well as degradation of habitat threaten Long-billed curlew conservation. Quantitative data on population trends available from BBS beginning in 1966 show a non-significant declining trend up until 1996. However, this trend was not uniform across all of the breeding range; populations in the Great Plains declined while populations west of the Rocky Mountains slightly increased. For more information about this species, refer to the following resource:

  • Fellows, S. D., and S. L. Jones. 2009. Status assessment and conservation action plan for the Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus). U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Technical Publication, FWS/BTP-R6012- 2009, Washington, D.C. http http://www.whsrn.org/sites/default/files/file/Long-billed_Curlew_Plan_-_USFWS_rev_2009_Sept.pdf

    » Other Resources

    NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.

    ITIS Reports -- ITIS (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) is a source for authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

    FWS Digital Media Library -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Digital Library is a searchable collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications, and video.