Oh Long-billed Curlew, when will I hear you?

/, Birds, Fort De Soto County Park, Long-billed Curlews/Oh Long-billed Curlew, when will I hear you?

A few days ago I read that a Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) had been spotted on Antelope Island State Park and that got me excited. I’ve waited to see them again since they left last fall and I simply can not wait to hear their mysterious and hauntingly beautiful call.

Long-billed Curlew in a tidal lagoon, FloridaLong-billed Curlew in a tidal lagoon, Florida – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 310mm, natural light

When I still lived in Florida I would see Long-billed Curlews in very different habitats than I do here in Utah. I found them on the sandy shorelines of the Gulf of Mexico, strolling around the Sea Oats in the dunes, foraging in tidal lagoons and in Spartina marshes. They were lovely, graceful and interesting birds to photograph. But they did not call. Not once did I hear them.

Long-billed Curlew in prairie grasses, UtahLong-billed Curlew in prairie grasses, Utah – Nikkor D200, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

In both Utah and Montana I see the birds most often in the grasses, on the shorelines of the freshwater marshes, lakes and ponds, near Sagebrush on gentle slopes and the edges of the Great Salt Lake.

On their breeding grounds here in Utah and in Montana I do hear them call. It is a sound that once I heard it I knew I’d never forget. Will I hear them today when I am out in the field?

I sure hope so.


Listen to the call of a Long-billed Curlew on this page


  1. Julie Brown March 13, 2012 at 2:54 am

    Nice wings up position. That bill is almost as long as the bird itself! I listened to the recording. It is memorable. I will keep my ears open when I am on the beach in Florida in a couple of weeks. My first sighting of this species was in California at the Carmel River Lagoon.

    • Mia McPherson March 13, 2012 at 9:33 am

      Julie, the longest bills on this species indicate they are females, the males bill is shorter. I see more females than males usually. I’ve never heard on of these call in Florida but maybe when you make a summer trip to Utah you will hear them calling.

  2. ingrid March 12, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    This title struck such longing in my photographic heart! I miss the shorebirds who winter in the Bay Area every year. At the same time, I can’t say I’ve heard the types of calls you describe. It must be wonderful.

    • Mia McPherson March 13, 2012 at 9:31 am

      Ingrid, I miss some of the shorebirds I used to see and photograph in Florida too but I do get to see some of them here in their breeding grounds now. It is wonderful to hear Long-billed Curlews calling.

  3. Tammy Karr March 11, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    I hope you were to hear the Curlew on your adventures today. That is a gorgeous bird! The lighting on the first photo is brilliant!

    • Mia McPherson March 13, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Tammy, unfortunately I didn’t hear or see a Long-billed Curlew the other day but I expect to hear one soon. Thanks for your very kind words.

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