Welcome to November everyone! Granted we are a few days into it, but I’ve finally managed to make it to surface for some badly needed air. Halloween has past (long live the haunt!), sadness has been overwhelmed by cherished memories and, as of last Saturday, my race season has likely come to a close unless a race in the snow happens to catch my fancy. Although we are likely a ways from the ground sticking fluffy stuff, Bri needs some time for rest and healing – the 100K race left its mark. Now the focus turns to getting back to “normal” and the first order of business is feathers.
I know some of you were wondering when we were going to get back to our featured feathered friends .. after all, this is a blog that is supposed to be about all things wild. In my defense, zombie encounters can get a bit wild if you don’t have a long pointy stick to pop them in the head with. Today’s featured shorebird has absolutely no fear of running into the walking dead. They just causally walk up to the animated corpse and “bill” them in the head.
Hit the jump to learn more about our natural born “zombie killer”.
Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to get a shot of this unique behavior – likely due to running my ass away (or at least staying ahead of Ron) to get to safety – and people still wonder why I train ha. I did manage to get these images of a Long-Billed Curlew strolling on the beach at South Padre Island.
It is hard to mistake a Long-Billed Curlew for any other shorebird at least in the States. They are a relatively tall bird compared to the majority of other shore-walkers, but clearly it is the bill that really sets them apart. Not only is their snout about three times the size of their head, they also have a significant downward bend in it. That feature alone narrows the ID to pretty much the Ibisis, Wood Storks and the Whimbrel.
Ibises are definitely larger than the Curlew and their coloring is significantly different. White Ibises (link here) are ….well, all white with pink on their heads and the Glossy (link here) and White-Faced (link here) variety are significantly darker (bronzed) compared to the tannish barring of the Curlew and all are larger in stature. The Wood Stork (link here) is right out because our featured thin-billed species is extremely cute where the Stork is one of those that Brad has coined “a face only a mother could love” (link here). Yes, we here at Intrigued are known to body-shame birds, but we only do it in a respectful, loving and helpful manner. For the record, the Stork’s bill is far heavier in structure and they also dress in the white and black color palette.
That leaves one sticky decision in the mix and that is the Whimbrel. I’d love to give you a link here that would take you to a post I had previously made on the Whimbrel, but there is one minor, itty, bitty, infinitesimal, minuscule, diminutive, dinky issue – I’ve NEVER seen one in the wild. Truth is, it has become my nemesis bird, as of late. UPDATE – my mistake, I originally referenced a sighting at Brazos Bend SP – in actuality it was a Limpkin, not a Whimbrel that was found at Brazos, which I also do not have – apologies for the confusion – I blame race fatigue ha. I was hoping to get one on our trip to Dauphin Island/Florida Panhandle back in April of 21 – missed it. Planned to remedy that miss with a trip there this year, but that had to be canceled while we tended to mother and then we had everything mapped out to go to Sanibel Island and we all know what happened there.
Long(er) story short, no check for Bri on the Whimbrel front. I can relay the key different in case you are luckier than I am in the field. The best distinguisher is the bill. Both have a down-curve, but the Whimbrel has a much smaller bill – at least in relationship to their head. From my highly scientific measuring device (read thumb and finger), I put the head to bill ratio in the 1.5 range vs 3 for the Curlew – note, I am currently meeting daily with the English measurement standards body to get the “Doerfpinch” or “Dinch” for short, unit of measure into the latest CRC edition.
If you have a good eye or sufficiently close images, you may also notice the Whimbrel has a striped crown vs the more solid crown of the Curlew. This is one of those markings that gets a little difficult depending on the angle and season as most shorebirds tend to have a lot of variety in their feathering. For example, most Curlews are more cinnamon washed where our specimen is rather pale through the belly.
Then there are times you get a shot like this and you can’t tell what the hell it is – Alex, I’ll take “Long Legged Puffer Fish Impersonations for $200”.
I should probably get to some interesting facts about the Long-Billed Curlew now that you are adequately equipped to identify them in the field. They spend their winters in Central American and along the coastline of our southern half. Cornell informs us that they head up to the Great Plains/Basin areas for breeding. Their long bills allow them to probe for invertebrates during the winter months and then nourish on Grasshoppers during their breeding season.
As much as I bitch about some of the poor choices from the bird naming association, I have to give them credit for the selection for this species. They do indeed have a long bill – no need to sneak up on one of these specimens, launch out of the reeds, tackle one to the ground and pull back the neck feathers to see if there is a ring (link here). What I didn’t know was that their genus name includes Numenius which means “zombie killer” in Latin.
“What? A huh? Are you sure? And if I don’t? You don’t say? But it was intended as a joke? Hmmmmm, How much do I pay you to hassle me like this?, Did you slither to work today?” Okay, folks, just got off the phone with my stick-in-the-mud legal team and they have demanded I correct a slight stretch of the truth – Numenius is actually Latin for “of the new moon” in recognition of the curvature of their bill – sometimes it is just better to comply than to fight it ha.
Well, hope you enjoyed reading about the third member of the Stooges. With everything settling down, should be good month of posting and even have some new posts from Brad ready to head your way.