Growth of Bills in Long-billed Curlews

Long-billed Curlew chick at Bear River NWRLong-billed Curlew chick at Bear River NWR – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Long-billed Curlews don’t hatch with long bills, in fact the bills of the chicks look rather stubby for the first few months of their lives.  Two days ago I spotted two Long-billed Curlews chicks and two adults not far from the auto tour route at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge and was able to get images of the chicks out in the open. The chicks were still downy with long legs, short bills and the wings were barely noticeable.

I thought a post on the growth of bills in Long-billed Curlews might interest some of my readers.

The bills are probably short for two reasons, the first being long bills wouldn’t fit well within the eggs and secondly the chicks need a strong bill to scrape against the egg shell to pip and a shorter bill would be stronger than a longer one would be.

I do know that the Long-billed Curlew chicks are little cuties!

A juvenile Long-billed Curlew on Antelope IslandA juvenile Long-billed Curlew on Antelope Island – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 264mm, natural light

This image taken in July of 2011 shows an older Long-billed Curlew chick on Antelope Island State Park. This curlew has lost the down except for the top of its head and the back of its neck and is in juvenal plumage. The bill is longer than the bill in the first image but still quite short compared to an adult curlew.

An adult male Long-billed CurlewAn adult male Long-billed Curlew – Nikon D7100, f9, 1/640, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

This image shows the length of the bill for an adult male Long-billed Curlew I photographed last June on Antelope Island. Adult female Long-billed Curlews have even longer more curved bills than the males.

Isn’t nature fascinating?

Life is good.



  1. Rick remington June 5, 2015 at 8:14 am


    What a fascinating article. I absolutely love your educational style and brilliant photographs. Your blog is the first thing I look at every day.
    Keep up the great work.

  2. Linda Murdock June 3, 2015 at 10:38 am

    Most interesting! We get the Long-billed Curlews here on the Gulf Coast of Texas during the winter and they are such fun to photograph. We found a half-dozen working a grassy lawn probing for Mole Crickets last year. They are often found walking along the surf.

    Lovely to see the chicks 🙂

  3. Elephant's Child May 31, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Fascinating. Here in Oz, our magpies beg from their parents when they seem to be as least as big as they are. I learned it is because in summer our ground is baked too hard for their beaks which, while full sized, are not as hard as they will become. Developing still…
    Loved the images – and the information.

  4. Mia McPherson May 31, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks Christine, Patty and Colleen!

    Patty I think all “long-billed” birds hatch with shorter bills, at least the long billed birds i am aware of.

  5. Christine Oakley May 31, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Fascinating info Mia – I never even thought of that but so obvious now that you’ve brought it to my attention 🙂

    Thanks for a great post and all the fabulous images to go with it!

  6. Patty Chadwick May 31, 2015 at 8:33 am

    Interesting progression…hummingbird babies have a similar one…their beaks start out short, too. Cute “baby pictures”…,

  7. Colleen May 31, 2015 at 7:31 am

    I learned something new today!

Comments are closed.