This unusual appearing bird is called a Long-billed Curlew (pronounced ‘curl-you’). And it is a very large shorebird as it stands about 2 feet high making it the largest of the regularly occurring shorebirds found in North America. It’s long downwardly curved bill is more than 8 inches in length.
The purpose of this bird’s bill is best described by Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s webpage (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/long-billed_Curlew/lifehistory ) “The remarkably long, downcurved bill allows curlews to forage for earthworms and other deep-burrowing prey such as shrimp and crabs.” They are often found in flooded agricultural or grass fields where they probe often deeply into the softened ground for these food items. Just a few days ago I saw one bring up a small snake that it proceeded to swallow.
Long-billed Curlews spend the winter along southern coastal areas of the United States as well as well into Mexico. They migrate into western areas of North America where they raised their babies on prairies and even agricultural fields. (please note that I photograph these and other species with a very long dslr camera lens combination so I can do so from a distance and so I do not disturb them especially during the sensitive breeding time) . These birds had stopped over to feed and rest in my area during their migration. You can see below where they can be found:
I think these birds are quite stunning when they raise their wings–which they do as they take off in flight and when they land.
And they are quite graceful in flight as shown above. I think these are a very interesting species to watch. They have lost a lot habitat and are a species of concern so I am always happy to see a flock of these magnificent shorebirds. You can read more about them on the National Audubon Society’s webpage at http://birds.audubon.org/species/loncur .