Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Long-billed Curlews: A Species of Concern in Saskatchewan

Long-billed Curlew, Saskatchewan, Canada  Photograph © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Long-billed Curlew.   © SB
Early morning, and a Long-billed Curlew landed right behind our van on the EcoTour Road through Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan.

This graceful bird with the long, down-curving bill was lovely to see, especially as Long-billed Curlews — Canada's largest shorebird — are a Species of Special Concern in Canada, and their global population is also in decline.

The reasons for the decline of Long-billed Curlews are linked to land-use, and the increasing presence of agriculture; pesticides may also play a role.

Here's what Environment Canada has to say about Long-billed Curlews:
Habitat loss, both on the breeding and the wintering grounds, remains the largest current threat to the species' populations as native grasslands in Canada are lost to agriculture, development, and invasive species, and the wetlands and grasslands used by wintering birds face similar threats.  
These birds, which breed in short-grass prairie and other grasslands, have already been extirpated from Manitoba, our neighbouring province to the east.

On this early summer day, the first of the Prairie Passages Tour of grasslands and pastures around Val Marie, Saskatchewan, we saw three Long-billed Curlews — the one on the road, and two others that made forays through the park's Black-tailed Prairie Dog towns, foraging for food.

Grace in action: A post-sunrise treat to see their heads gracefully bobbing across their small island of protected grass.

Long-billed Curlew, Saskatchewan, Canada  Photograph © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Long-billed Curlew forages in the Prairie Dog town. © SB

What are these? Long-billed Curlews 
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan.
Photo date: June 25, 2013

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