Return to Main Page   Dakota Birder Blog    

Eskimo Curlew

Numenius borealis

Length: 12 to 14 inches Wingspan: 24 to 26 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Slender decurved bill, dark brown crown with buff spots and edging, buffy supercilium

Eskimo Curlew - Numenius borealisOnce possibly among the most numerous of shorebirds to migrate through the Great Plains, the Eskimo Curlew is now feared extinct.  Highly sought after in the 1800's as a game-bird because of their plump bodies, vast numbers were shot for food.  While other shorebirds began to make a comeback after hunting stopped, Eskimo Curlews continued to decline.  The last verified sighting was in Barbados in 1963.  Very similar to the story of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, however, unconfirmed reports have continued to trickle in since.  An intriguing sighting came from a well-respected ornithologist in 2006 on the coast of Nova Scotia, but no photo or other proof was obtained.

Habitat: Nests on the Arctic tundra.  In winter and migration, could be found on open areas such as agricultural fields and grasslands.

Diet:  Insects, some fruits and berries.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Soft high-pitched squeaks and whistles.

Migration: Breeds in northwestern Canada and Alaska.  Winters in South America.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Eskimo Curlew sightings

Similar Species: Whimbrel

Conservation Status: Possibly extinct, with no verified sightings since 1963, but with several unconfirmed reports since then.

Further Information: 1) Alaska Fish And Game Profile - Eskimor Curlew

2) Wikipedia - Eskimo Curlew

3) BirdLife International - Eskimo Curlew

Photo Information: Painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Eskimo Curlew - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Possibly extinct.  Once migrated through the state.