Find The Whimbrel

Whimbrel with eggs (photo by Dr. Matthew Perry, USGS)
Whimbrel with eggs at Churchill, Manitoba, Canada (photo by Dr. Matthew Perry, USGS)

14 July 2015

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 won’t leave until September. This means that various age groups of whimbrels are on the move in North America from July through September.

Both successful mothers and those whose nests have failed arrive in the Great Lakes in July on the first stage of their long migration.

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. 

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)
Whimbrels wintering in Singapore (photo by Lip Kee via Wikimedia Commons)

This month, if you’re lucky, you may see a whimbrel on the shore.  Its long down-curved bill stands out.

(photo of whimbrel at nest by Dr. Matthew Perry, USGS. Photo of whimbrels in Singapore by Lip Kee via Wikimedia Commons.)

p.s. July 2015: 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.

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