Eskimo Curlew

Numenius borealis
Range Map

The birds that laid the eggs shown below are most likely extinct. These are part of the collection at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in Camarillo, California.

The Eskimo Curlew was (is) the smallest of the four curlew species in the Western Hemisphere (genus: Numenius). During the latter half of the 1800s, their population crashed. Where once were flocks numbering in the hundreds of thousands, they became a rarity.

Theirs was an epic migration that spanned from the Arctic coast of North America, to the southern tip of South America. The trip included a non-stop flight across the western Atlantic Ocean to South America.

Science considered the Eskimo Curlew to be monotypic (i.e. no subspecies).

According to research: “Excessive hunting was clearly a major factor, especially along spring migratory pathways in North America, but the concurrent conversion of prairies to agriculture, suppression of wildfires, and extinction of a principal food source, the Rocky Mountain Grasshopper (Melanoplus spretus), also contributed strongly to this bird’s precipitous decline.” Sadly, it seems all we have to remind us of this exceptional bird are fossils and museum specimens.

1 Photos

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