Long-billed Curlews… I heard you!

/, Birds, Long-billed Curlews, Utah/Long-billed Curlews… I heard you!

Male Long-billed CurlewLong-billed Curlew – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Yesterday started off a bit cloudy so we got a late start heading out to Antelope Island to see what birds we could find. There weren’t many along the causeway except for ducks and coots that always seem take off as soon a vehicle slows down near them. I did see a Northern Harrier with nesting material in its talons and that made me hope that I’d be able to locate a pair of them building a nest. That isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Once on the island there were some Red-winged Blackbirds that wouldn’t stay still long enough to focus on them and a Chukar that slipped down the side of a rock after I had taken just one frame. Things were looking like they were going to be slow… again.

Preening Long-billed CurlewPreening Long-billed Curlew – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

None of the Loggerhead Shrikes were close enough to photograph so we pulled up to where some Black-billed Magpies have been busy nest building for the past several weeks. The thing is that there are often 15 to 20 minute intervals between the birds bringing in nesting materials. So we usually sit there waiting.

But not today. We hadn’t been there three minutes when I heard a distinctive call and I knew immediately what the sound was. I glanced up towards the sky and saw a very familiar shape winging its way towards us, then I saw another not too far behind.

The Long-billed Curlews (Numenius americanus) have returned to their breeding grounds! I would have jumped for joy but when you are inside a vehicle that can lead to a severe headache after hitting your skull on the roof. 🙂

Long-billed Curlew wing liftLong-billed Curlew wing lift – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

It wasn’t long before I could see and hear several other pairs flying around in the sky and calling. I know I have said it before but it really is a sound you won’t forget after hearing it.

We found a couple of pairs of Curlews preening in the grasses and photographed them. I wish that the bird doing the wing lift in the photo above had been facing us but I take comfort in the fact that it is early in the season and there will be many more opportunities to catch that action.

Long-billed Curlew Long-billed Curlew in dried grasses – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1600, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

For several weeks the cries of the Curlews will be heard over their breeding grounds and their displays both in the air and in the grasses will be seen.

It is great to have them back.



  1. Beverly Everson April 21, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Beautiful images! I especially love the last one. Your work is always inspiring!!

    • Mia McPherson April 21, 2012 at 10:34 am

      Thank you beverly, I adore Long-billed Curlews!

  2. Linda Rockwell April 20, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Beautiful birds and beautiful images Mia. I have a lovely memory of watching these birds walking across the Llana Estacado eastern New Mexico. Love the detail of the plumage!

    • Mia McPherson April 21, 2012 at 10:33 am

      Thanks Linda, I think the plumage; as well as the long bill, are fascinating on this species. They are so elegant at times.

  3. Julie Brown March 29, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Nice set of images, Mia. I especially like the second one!

  4. Susan March 29, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    You never disappoint, what a wonderful post.

    • Mia McPherson March 31, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks Susan, nature never disappoints!

  5. Bob Zeller March 29, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Great photos again, Mia.

    • Mia McPherson March 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Thank you Bob, as always your comments are much appreciated.

  6. Scott March 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Love these birds and photos.

    • Mia McPherson March 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Scott.

  7. Tammy Karr March 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Gorgeous photos! The lighting really highlights their beautiful colors and patterns!

    • Mia McPherson March 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      Thank you Tammy, I love the colors & plumage patterns this species has.

  8. Laurence Butler March 29, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Fantastic! I love the soft colors and preposterous proboscises. Great photos as always, glad you’re getting some great sightings.

    • Mia McPherson March 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      Thank you Laurence, I am getting some great sighting of these Curlews. I was so anxious to have them come back that now it is hard to keep myself from dancing because they are. Thise bills are soemthing else, aren’t they?

  9. Prairie Birder March 29, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Very beautiful photos Mia, I hope to see a Long-billed Curlew soon.

    • Mia McPherson March 31, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      PrairieBirder, I hope that you get to see Long-billed Curlews soon too. They are such fun subjects to photograph.

  10. Carol Mattingly March 29, 2012 at 8:01 am

    I’ve never seen these Curlews but they are absolutely fantastic to look at. Beautiful too. I love their gorgeous variation of color. Carol

    • Mia McPherson March 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      Carol, Long-billed Curlews are fascinating birds. I had more fun with them yesterday and their calls were echoing off of the hillsides. They do have beautiful colors. Thanks for commenting.

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