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Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

Distribution and population
This species was once an abundant breeder over most of the prairie regions of the USA and Canada. Populations have declined throughout this range since the beginning of the 20th century as a result of over-hunting and habitat loss (owing to fragmentation, conversion to croplands, and urban development). It is now extirpated as a breeding bird in Kansas, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, eastern Nebraska, Illinois, Manitoba and south-east Saskatchewan. It migrates to winter in the southern USA and Mexico, with birds occurring irregularly in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica (AOU 1998, Hill 1998).

Population justification
Continental populations were thought to be declining by 2% per year between 1980 and 1996 (equivalent to 16% in ten years) (AOU 1998, Hill 1998); however data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate that these figures were incorrect and in fact annual declines at a rate of 0.6% between 1980 and 2006 are more realistic (Morrison et al. 2006). This equates to a decline of just 5.8% over a ten year period. However, it appears that there are considerably more Long-billed Curlews than previously thought, with a likely global population in the order of 50,000-123,000, based on recent assessments, expert opinion and statistically based surveys (Wetlands International 2006).

Trend justification
This species has undergone a small or statistically insignificant decrease over the last 40 years in North America (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007).

Breeding habitat is short-grass or mixed-grass native prairie, but varies from moist meadows to very dry grasslands. It generally prefers to nest in large open expanses of relatively low vegetation, and is late maturing, long-lived and has a low reproductive output. In winter it favours intertidal habitats but will feed in adjacent pastures (Leeman and Colwell 2005).

Sea-level rise may reduce the amount of available intertidal wintering habitat in future (Colwell and Mathis 2001). The loss and conversion of large areas of short grass prairie into agricultural land within its range has presumably had a major impact upon the species and is likely to the most important threat at present. Long-billed Curlew are facing increasing threats in the grasslands and prairies of North America, both on their breeding and wintering grounds. In addition, Long-billed Curlew range contractions on the eastern edge of their range continue to cause concerns.

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. The American bird Conservancy has worked to increase awareness of the species as a flagship for grassland conservation in the Northern Rockies (Anon 2006/2007). Population surveys have been conducted and global population estimates generated. It occurs within a number of protected areas and areas of short grass prairie are being conserved for it and other species's benefit.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Clarify the global population estimate. Identify the principal threats driving declines and develop and appropriate management plan to reverse these. Protect key breeding and wintering sites.

Anon. 2006/2007. Case study: Long-billed Curlew. Bird Conservation: 14-15.

AOU. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Colwell, M. A.; Mathis, R. L. 2001. Seasonal variation in territory occupancy of non-breeding Long-billed Curlews in intertidal habitats. Waterbirds 24: 208-216.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hill, D. P. 1998. Status of the Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) in Alberta.

Leeman, T.S.; Colwell, M. A. 2005. Coastal pasture use by Long-billed Curlews at the northern extent of their non-breeding range. Journal of Field Ornithology 76: 33-39.

Morrison, R. I. G.; McCaffery, B. J.; Gill, R. E.; Skagen, S. K.; Jones, S. L.; Page, G. W.; Gratto-Trevor, C. L.; Andres, B. A. 2006. Population estimates of North American shorebirds, 2006. Wader Study Group Bulletin: 67-85.

Wetland International - China Office. 2006. Relict Gull surveys in Hongjianao, Shaanxi Province. Newsletter of China Ornithological Society 15(2): 29.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Benstead, P., Bird, J., Mahood, S.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Numenius americanus. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Scolopacidae (Sandpipers, Snipes, Phalaropes)
Species name author Bechstein, 1812
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,820,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species