Bristle-thighed Curlew (Numenius tahitiensis)

Bristle-thighed Curlew

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Numenius tahitiensis | [UK] Bristle-thighed Curlew | [FR] Courlis d’Alaska | [DE] Borsten-Brachvogel | [ES] Zarapito del Pacifico | [NL] Zuidzee-wulp


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Very similar to the Whimbrel, but tawnier, especially about tail; tawny, unbarred rump. Breast less streaked, bill paler.

Listen to the sound of Bristle-thighed Curlew

[audio: Curlew.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 82 cm wingspan max.: 88 cm
size min.: 40 cm size max.: 44 cm
incubation min.: 22 days incubation max.: 26 days
fledging min.: 1 days fledging max.: 1 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America : Alaska


Tundra (Alaska); reefs and beaches in winter. Nests at a
few sites in western Alaska, well inland in steep hilly country, on open tundra with scattered small shrubs. Winters on islands in tropical Pacific, on beaches, coral reefs, mudflats, grassy fields.


Early in breeding season, male displays by flying over nesting territory, calling.
Nest: Site is on the ground on hilly upland tundra with scattered small shrubs, with nest often placed directly under a dwarf willow. Nest is a shallow depression in tundra, lined with bits of lichen, moss, and leaves.
Eggs: Usually 4. Olive-buff, blotched with brown. Incubation is by both sexes, roughly 25 days.
Downy young leave nest soon after hatching, are tended by both parents. Young feed themselves. Adults are very aggressive in defending the nest and young; may put on “distraction display” to lure predators away, or may directly attack even large predator
s. After a few days, families with young move away from nest site, eventually gathering with other families on hilltops. Adult females usually depart before young fledge, leaving males to care for young.

Feeding habits

Includes crustaceans, insects, berries.
Summer diet probably includes many insects. In late summer, may feed heavily on berries. On Pacific islands where it winters, feeds on crustaceans, snails, small fish; also eggs of seabirds.
Behavior: Forages mostly by walking on ground, picking up items f
rom surface, probably also probing in soil or mud with bill. In feeding on thick-shelled eggs of albatrosses on winter range, may pick up a piece of rock and use it to crack shell, a rare case of tool use by a bird.


This species is listed as Vulnerable because its population is now small and believed to be declining, largely as a result of predation on the wintering grounds, when perhaps more than 50% of adults are flightless during autumn moult.
Bristle-thighed Curlew status Vulnerable


Breeds in western Alaska. Winters on islands in central and southern Pacific. Migration:
After nesting, most individuals gather on the Yukon Delta in western Alaska to feed heavily on berries and insects, building up fat reserves, then depart on nonstop flight of over 2,500 miles to Hawaii and other islands in Pacific.

Distribution map

Bristle-thighed Curlew distribution range map

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