Bristle-thighed curlew - Numenius tahitiensis
The bristle-thighed curlew is a medium-sized shorebird that is 15-17 inches in length. It has a dark brown eye stripe; a long, down-curved bill; and long, grayish-blue legs. It has a barred tail, a mottled brown back, a reddish-brown belly and rump, a streaked brown breast, and a light brown head and neck. It gets its name from the bristly feathers at the ends of its thighs. Males and females look alike. The bristle-thighed curlew is the only shorebird that can't fly during its molt.
The bristle-thighed curlew breeds in western Alaska. It winters in Hawaii and other South Pacific Islands including Samoa, Micronesia, Fiji, and French Polynesia.
During breeding season, the bristle-thighed curlew is found on hilly inland tundra in Alaska. In winter, it is found on sandy South Pacific island beaches.
The bristle-thighed curlew eats crustaceans, small fish, bird eggs, and snails. On the tundra during breeding season, it eats insects, seeds, and berries. The bristle-thighed curlew sometimes smashes large food items like crabs against the ground or a flat rock to open them up. It takes the crab in its bill, raises its head up, and then brings its head down and slams the crab against a flat rock or the ground. The bristle-thighed curlew also uses rocks or coral to open eggs. It takes a piece of coral or a rock in its bill and flings it into a bird egg again and again until the egg breaks open. It then uses its long, pointed bill to poke into the egg and open it up. It is one of only a few bird species that are known to use a tool to get food!
The female lays 4 eggs in a nest in a depression in the ground. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 25 days. The chicks are precocial and leave the nest and feed themselves shortly after hatching. Both parents care for the young. The female leaves before the chicks are fledged, and the male stays with them until they fledge.
Scientists have known about the bristle-thighed curlew since the mid-1700s, but they didn't know about their breeding grounds in Alaska until 1948!
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