John T. Willis

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bristled-thighed Curlew

The Bristle-thighed Curlew, Numenius tahitiensis, is a large shorebird tha breeds in Alaska and winters on tropical Pacific islands in a wide variety of places there. It has a long-decurved bill and bristled feathers at the base of the legs. Itis 15 to 17inches long and weighs one to two pounds. Its wingspan is 32 to 35 inches.

The size and shape of the Bristle-thighed Curlew are the same as the Whimbrel's, and the plumage is similar, spotted brown on their upper body with a light belly and rust-colored or buffy tail. The bigger buff spots on the upper body, unmarked light belly and barely marked blanks, tail color, and pale buffy-orange rump distinguish it from the Whimbrel. Experts estimate there are approximately 3,500 pairs of this bird, thus a total of approximately 7,000 birds.

Bristle-thighed Curlews feed on a wide variety of vegetation such a flowers and berries and on insects, sea life, and other bird's eggs, which they use rocks to break open--the only tool use among shorebirds.

This bird is rarely seen near populated land masses, with only a handful of sightings in Canada, California, and Oregon. It was first described scientifically during James Cook's visits to Tahiti in the 18th century, but its nesting grounds were not identified until 1948.

Nesting grounds are on the lower Yukon River and Seward Peninsula, with the birds preferring low-lying tundra near the shore line. Nests are built in ground depressions and lined with tundra moss. Eggs are greenish with brown spots, with four to a clutch and one brood per season. Incubation lasts 25 days, with both parents tending the nest and protecting the newly hatched chicks.

Adults have their chicks at about five weeks of age to migrate south. The chicks continue to feed until they are able to make the journey. The first leg of the migration includes a nonstop 4,000 km flight from Alaska to Laysan. They can make non-stop flights in excess of 6,000 km. This is amazing. This bird makes among the longest flights any bird has made every year.

Bristle-thighed Curlews are unique among shorebirds because they are flightless during molt. Also, their migration departures consist of small flocks and have no diurnal patterns. The winter habitat extends from Micronesia to Fiji to Tonga to the Hawaiian Islands to Samoa to French Polynesia. There is concern over encroachments and introduced predators in their winter habitat.

The Bristle-thighed Curlew is another example of God's unique, creative, marvelous creations. I hope YOU appreciate God's works. Above all, I pray that you are thankful for God and all he does daily. Share YOUR experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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