BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW (Numenius tahitiensis) Visitor
DESCRIPTION: The Bristle-thighed Curlew is a shorebird with a long, thin and downward curved bill. It has a brown eye line and brown stripes on the head. The top parts are mottled brown and the square tail is barred beige and brown. The under parts are light beige. The legs and feet are dark grey. Sexes are similar. The bird measures around 40 cm long.
NAME: This curlew has bristles at the base of their legs, hence their English name (part of). The other part, ‘Curlew’, comes from French ‘corlieu’, and refers to the bird’s call. The Latin genus name ‘Numenius’ means ‘new moon’, referring to the curved bill. Finally, the species name ‘tahitiensis’ refers to the fact that the first specimen was discovered in Tahiti.
HABITAT: Summer: Alaska tundra. Winter: fields with short grass, sandy beaches and mudflats, away from populated areas. In Hawaii, can be found in Kahuku, Oahu.
DIET: Insects, crustaceans, berries.
NESTING: Bristle-thighed curlews build a nest in a depression on the ground and line it with moss. Four green eggs are laid and incubated for around 25 days.
DISTRIBUTION: This species of curlew breeds in Alaska and migrates to the tropical islands of the Pacific for the winter. This includes Hawaii, where it will arrive at the end of August.
CONSERVATION: The Bristle-thighed Curlew is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN because of its declining low numbers. One unique factor as a shorebird is that this species can’t fly while moulting in the fall, when it is on its wintering grounds. This makes it highly vulnerable to predation. Another issue is loss of habitat.
NOTES: the first individual was identified in Tahiti during James Cook’s voyage in 1769, but the first breeding birds were only identified in Alaska in 1948!
SIMILAR SPECIES: Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew
The video below shows a banded bristle-thighed curlew, No. 45 – at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu, Hawaii: