I had a wonderful photographic opportunity yesterday with two Long-billed Curlews (Numenius americanus) on Antelope Island State Park that were exhibiting mating behavior.
I’m disappointed that I wasn’t closer than I was because I feel that these images are merely documentary shots instead of the fine, highly detailed images I would have loved. These are crops of more than 45% and because of that I don’t have the fine details that I want from all of my images. I’d never seen this behavior before and would have loved to have gotten better pictures.
I won’t be posting my techs for these images because there are so many.
At first there was only one Curlew but shortly afterwards another bird flew in. Female Curlew’s bills are typically longer than the males bills.
In this frame the male is on the left and the female is on the right. The female was calling, the male wasn’t.
The male began what is termed “shaking”¹, in this frame the male was approaching the female from behind.
In this frame the male is using his bill to ruffle the back feathers of the female.
Males also ruffle the under tail-coverts of the female as shown above.
At one point during this display the female acted aggressively towards the male and used her bill to poke or prod him, he reacted by raising his wings and moved away from her.
After the male moved away he circled back behind the female.
He then began to ruffle her under tail-coverts again and she seemed more receptive to his advances.
On Birds of North America they mention that the bill shaking is so vigorous that the bill vibrates, observing this through my long lens I would have to agree.
The female would move away slightly but the male would follow.
And he would begin ruffling her under tail-coverts again.
I kept hoping that the Curlews would copulate. The make sure seemed intent on ruffling her feathers.
I found the pose of the male interesting in this frame with his body bent low with his wings spread slighty and raised over his body.
The male spent a lot of time ruffling the female’s feathers.
Now matter how much this male paid attention to the female she wasn’t receptive and became aggressive with the male again. After the male moved away he flew off.
The interactions and behaviors were fascinating to me and I hope that I will be able to observe and photograph it again.
More Long-billed Curlew images