Whimbrel with eggs at Churchill, Manitoba, Canada (photo by Dr. Matthew Perry, USGS)
Can you see the whimbrel and four eggs?
These ground-nesting shorebirds have natural camouflage but I’ll bet you can see the one above because the eggs have shadows and the bird’s mouth is open. If you were holding the camera you’d hear the whimbrel shouting like this.
Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) nest in the northern tundra around the world. In North America they lay eggs in the first week of June that hatch in the first week of July. Mom stays with the family 3-14 days after the chicks hatch. Then she leaves on migration while dad stays with the kids until they fledge in August. The kids don’t leave until September. This means that some sort of whimbrel is on the move in North America from July through September.
Successful mothers and birds whose nests have failed arrive on northern coasts in July on the first stage of their long migration. Mary Birdsong saw this one yesterday at Presque Isle on Lake Erie’s shore (video below).
Their early stops are only way stations where the whimbrels fatten up for their transoceanic trips. Some North American whimbrels fly non-stop 2,500 miles to South America. (Others save time by wintering on the southern U.S. coast.)
Asian whimbrels spend the winter as far south as Australia. Here’s a group in Singapore.
Whimbrels wintering in Singapore (photo by Lip Kee via Wikimedia Commons)
But on migration they travel alone.
This month, if you’re lucky, you might see a whimbrel on the shore. You’ll see it when its long down-curved bill stands out. Woo hoo!
(photo of whimbrel at nest by Dr. Matthew Perry, USGS. Video of whimbrel at Presque Isle State Park 13 July 2015 by Mary Birdsong. Photo of whimbrels in Singapore by Lip Kee via Wikimedia Commons.)
p.s. I often go to Conneaut Harbor, Ohio to find shorebirds but the sandspit is inundated right now because the harbor water level is 20 inches higher than normal. See this message at OhioBirds.