A little less than two weeks ago I did a post titled Long-billed Curlew Mating Display and I was thrilled to see their interactions. Yesterday on Antelope Island State Park I witnessed and photographed a territorial encounter between two Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) males that occurred while a female was nearby.
I won’t be posting my techs because there are so many images, I used a Nikon D300 with a Nikkor 200-400mm VR lens with the 1.4x TC attached. The quality of many of theses images aren’t my best but I really like the behavior that they show.
When we drove slowly up on the Curlews they were just standing close to each other but before the engine was even turned off these two birds were going at it hot and heavy. Even the dirt was flying!
My shutter speed for this frame was 1/1600 and even that wasn’t fast enough to freeze the action.
This image shows “Wing-raising” by the aggressor and I believe the bird in the foreground is displaying “Appeasement”. I’m not sure the bird in the front could have flattened itself much further.
Birds of North America states that violent, physical interactions are rare but this was beginning to look pretty violent to me as the one male stabbed its bill toward the other.
I’m not sure which bird is the aggressor here.
This frame makes me think of fencing, En garde!
At this point I thought the male on the left was going to take off, that the Curlew in the back would be the winner of the encounter.
It certainly looked like the bird was going to leave.
And then the action started again.
From still images it is difficult to get a feel of just how fast everything was happening. It was a challenge just keeping the two Curlews in the viewfinder.
The cinnamon colored underwings of these two males were flashing often. The bird’s bills were moving almost too quickly to follow with my eyes.
Kick Boxing, Long-billed Curlew style. The female was still somewhere outside the frame watching all of the action going on, I just did not have time to photograph her.
In this image the bill tip of the bird on the left can be seen just above the wing of the bird on the right. It had to have gone under the wing and over the rump of the opponent.
Things seemed to be heating up.
But one of the males lifted off from the ground and the female followed it to a grassy slope behind us leaving this Curlew on the fighting ground. He stayed still for quite sometime and it seemed that his right eye had been irritated by the scuffle because it kept closed most of the time.
Before long the bird lifted off, perhaps to find a different mate.
The interaction between the two male Curlews was fascinating and I felt privileged to see and photograph it through my lens. I had a front row seat to an unexpected show that nature provided!
More Long-billed Curlew images