Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)

Long Beaked Curlew


  • Is the largest shorebird in North America, with a body length ranging from 51 to 66 centimetres (20 to 26 inches).


  • Overall characteristics for both males and females include:
    • A very long bill with a slight downcurve
    • Unstriped head
    • Brown plumage, mottled on the back, and buff underneath
    • Long legs


  • Common call is a loud, whistling cur-lee, cur-lee, cur-lee or an extended cuurrleeeuuu.
  • The long-billed curlew primarily breeds in the Grassland Natural Region of southern Alberta, although some breeding records extend into the Parkland Natural Region.
Natural History


  • Typical breeding habitat is short-grass or mixed-grass native prairie ranging from moist meadows to very dry grasslands.


  • Diet mostly consists of invertebrates, such as grasshoppers, but adult curlews may also feed upon passerine nestlings and small amphibians.

When Active

  • Is active, but uncommon, in Alberta from its arrival in mid- to late April to its departure in late August.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • In May the long-billed curlew excavates the ground and lines the depression with grasses, straw, and plant stems to form a nest. The rim of the nest may be slightly elevated above the surrounding vegetation.
  • The female lays eggs over a period of four to seven days. Typical clutch size is four eggs. Eggs are olive-buff in colour with brown or olive spots.
  • After the last egg is laid, both the male and the female share egg incubation duties, with the female incubating the eggs during the day, and the male incubating them at night.
  • Incubation period ranges from 27 to 30 days.
  • The female abandons the brood about two to three weeks after hatching, leaving the male to raise young until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Growth Process

  • Long-billed curlew offspring are able to walk and feed themselves shortly after hatching, and reach independence about 41 to 45 days later.
Conservation and Management


The long-billed curlew are classified as Sensitive in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Also see the Status of the Long-billed curlew in Alberta report at:

In a subsequent detailed status assessment, Alberta’s Endangered Species Conservation Committee identified the long-billed curlew as a Species of Special Concern—a species that without human intervention may soon become threatened with extinction. See information on the Endangered Species Conservation Committee and Species of Special Concern at:


  • The limited breeding range and slow growth process of this species can make populations vulnerable to changes in habitat.
  • Agricultural activity has resulted is loss of habitat for this species and is regarded as a key factor in population decline.

Current management

  • Under Alberta’s Wildlife Act, the long-billed curlew is designated as a non-game animal. It is illegal to kill or harass individuals or disturb their nests at any time of the year.


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014