By Graham Sorenson, BC Projects Coordinator, Birds Canada
Long-billed Curlews are on their way back north to their breeding habitat in western Canada! A welcome sign of spring to many people living in grassland and agricultural habitat in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Here in British Columbia, curlews arrive by early April, a bit earlier than the rest of western Canada, though by World Curlew Day (April 21), all three provinces are hosting curlews!
World Curlew Day began in 2018 as an initiative to support curlew conservation in the United Kingdom. In the UK, Eurasian Curlews are facing even greater declines than the Long-billed Curlew from threats including habitat loss, increased predation, agricultural practices, and climate change. You can learn more about the curlew work taking place in the UK at Curlew Action. If you are looking for some interesting readings this spring, check out the book Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell. This great book about curlew conservation and Mary’s curlew walk across the UK was part of the start to World Curlew Day.
I also highly recommend watching this amazing new video on curlews in the UK (narrated by David Gray, a favourite musician of mine!). While the messages are about the Eurasian Curlew, many of these same issues face Long-billed Curlew and other curlew species around the world, as well as many of North America’s shorebird species.
Birds Canada has been conducting research, monitoring, and outreach on Long-billed Curlews in British Columbia to improve our understanding of curlews breeding in BC and to find ways agricultural practices can further benefit Long-billed Curlew. If you would like to read more about our work and find past posts about curlews, explore our curlew project page. You can also check out the below maps showing the migration routes of curlews from the east Kootenay (2017) and Prince George (2019) regions.
2017-18 southward and northward migration for five curlews banded near Skookumchuck Prairie, BC.
2019 southward migration data for five Long-billed Curlews banded north of Prince George, BC.
For birders, naturalists, farmers, and landowners in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, we would love your help understanding migration and breeding timing by reporting curlew sightings to eBird or Project NestWatch if you find a nest. We are also interested in learning more about hay harvest times and frequency from regions with breeding curlews. Learn more about how you can contribute on our curlew project page, and feel free to reach out to me at bcvolunteer_at_birdscanada.org. We would also like to thank the many farmers and naturalists that have already contributed, especially those dedicated curlew watchers in the Prince George area!