Curlew on a Bison Pooh Perch

A Long-billed Curlew preening on dried bison poohA Long-billed Curlew preening on dried bison pooh – Nikon D810, f8, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

There are between 500 and 750 head of Bison on Antelope Island which means the island is dotted with a lot of bison pooh all the time. Some birds like to perch on the highest feature around and in some grassy areas that means dried bison pooh. Yesterday this Long-billed Curlew preened, fluffed, shook and called on a pile of pooh.

A Long-billed Curlew perched on dried Bison poohA Curlew on a Bison Pooh Perch – Nikon D810, f8, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Some might not think a pile of pooh to be very appealing in an image but I love taking images of birds that show them in their habitat and some times that includes pooh, especially as bird as graceful as a Long-billed Curlew.

By the way, that little black spot above and to the left of the curlew’s head if a biting gnat; aka no-see-ums, and they are out biting now. Nasty buggers!

Long-billed Curlew wing liftLong-billed Curlew wing lift – Nikon D810, f8, 1/1250, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The curlew even lifted it wings while it was preening which showed the cinnamon color of the underside of its wings the whole time still perched on the pooh.

A Long-billed Curlew calling from a bison pooh perchA Long-billed Curlew calling from a bison pooh perch – Nikon D810, f8, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The curlew finished its preening and for a few seconds its call rang out over the island before it climbed down from the bison pooh and slowly walked away.

Life is good.


PS, over the years I have photographed other birds on bison pooh, look below this post under “related” and click the first link to see more birds and pooh.


  1. Dennis Jorgensen May 8, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Hi Mia, great photo and I thought you might be interested to know that when curlews are nesting they do so in relatively short grass but use camouflage and crypsis (staying motionless) to avoid notice. Here’s the kicker, and I think you’ll love this but my belief is that the patterning on their feathers is intended to resemble dry bison dung, which would once have been everywhere on the prairies helping them escape notice. WWF and partners located nests and tagged birds with satellite tracking devices to follow their migrations, but while searching for nests I came to the conclusion that bison pooh could often be mistaken through the binoculars for a curlew on its nest and vice versa. Great shot. Follow me @RattlesnakeDen

    • Mia McPherson May 8, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      Thanks so much for the information Dennis. Your belief on their plumage patterns is very interesting and I can see where I might mistake a nesting curlew and bison pooh too!

  2. John Longhenry April 30, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Wonderful series Mia of one of my favorite birds but the Bison dung is over the tops superb! Thanks for sharing and hoping that I can get a couple of Long-billed Curlews on my upcoming Utah visit!

  3. Larry Muench April 30, 2015 at 9:30 am

    Beautiful shots. Love the background and wonderful colors.

  4. Patty Chadwick April 30, 2015 at 9:14 am

    A WONDERFUL series!!! Especially like first and second shots…first is a classic!!! That Bison poop is golden…not only provides fertilizer, but also perfect planting medium, providing both moisture and nutrients…the Bisons’ sharp toes push the seeds into the soil, master planters that they are. Those birds can’t buy “elevator shoes” so the added height of Bison pies are the next best thing. I can’t remember seeing any bird turn a cow pie or Bison poop over for what goodies lurk beneath…have you???

  5. Dave Sparks April 30, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Another reason I’ve got to make it to Utah this year. I have lots of Long-billed Curlew shots, but NONE on Bison pooh. Great poses, but I’m having difficulty saying I like the perch.

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