Long-billed Curlews – Shorebirds of the Great Basin

Male Long-billed Curlew in the grasses on Antelope IslandMale Long-billed Curlew in the grasses on Antelope Island – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light (Antelope Island SP, Utah 2017)

It was one year ago today that I saw and heard my first Long-billed Curlews of the year and this morning as I sit here knowing there are cloudy skies outside I am wondering if the curlews have returned to northern Utah today as well. A year ago today I didn’t get any great images of the curlews I saw that day because of poor lighting conditions and the curlews were often nearly hidden by vegetation.

Long-billed Curlews are shorebirds that are found in the Great Basin and the Great Plains during their breeding season.

Long-billed Curlew with open billFemale Long-billed Curlew with open bill – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 340mm, natural light (Fort De Soto, Florida 2009)

I used to see these birds on their wintering grounds while I lived in Florida and the habitat they used there was much different than where I see them out here in Utah. In Florida I would see them on the beaches of the Gulf coast, tidal lagoons and spartina marshes. Here I see them in the grasslands, rangelands, sagebrush prairies and some of the marshes surrounding the Great Salt Lake.

Long-billed Curlews are large sandpipers and they are our largest shorebird of North America. These birds can be quite difficult to spot in the dried grasses we have gotten used to seeing since last fall but now that spring has arrived with the fresh growth of new grasses I will be able to spot them from long distances with my eyes and I know I will soon be hearing their calls too which also helps me to locate the birds.

Listen to their flight calls here.

I swear that the last time I was up in Box Elder County photographing birds that I heard just one single Long-billed Curlew call but I didn’t hear the call again in the seconds afterwards so I can’t tell for sure that I actually heard it or if I wanted to hear them so badly I just imagined it.

I can’t wait for this dreary weather to be over so I can get back out into the field and spot my first Long-billed Curlew of the year. I need to get out into the field.

Life is good.



  1. Elephants Child March 22, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Are your eagle eyes matched by your hearing?
    A beautiful bird, and I do hope the weather lets you get out and about. Soon.

  2. Rich March 22, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Big groups of majestic Curlew were common even to suburban grass playing fields, now not a one anywhere.
    Again-n-again it’s: “Where are they?”
    Even species populations designated “of least concern” are down 90% from normal historical levels.

  3. Patty Chadwick March 22, 2018 at 10:59 am

    TWO great shots of a very interesting bird!!! Love both shots, esp. the second. I sure hope you see or hear another calling back the next time you’re out…can never forget book “The Last Curlew” or the last white male rhino…or the one third of the monarchs we’re left with…so far……..

  4. Tim Traver March 22, 2018 at 7:39 am

    Love being on your posting list! Thanks so much for sharing your work — a much anticipated daily look (and lesson).

  5. Bob mcpherson March 22, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Nice photos Mia.

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