Photo courtesy of Marlin Harms
Local beaches are teeming with birdlife. After spending early summer in interior grasslands or tundra to nest and raise young, hundreds of long-billed curlews are back on our beaches as well as whimbrels. These two species are among the largest shorebirds, but are often confused because of their similar marbled feathering.
Want to learn the difference? Look at the bills. The long-billed curlew has a 7-inch down-curved bill, the longest of our local shorebirds. The whimbrel also has a down-curved bill, but it’s thicker and shorter. The whimbrel body is about 17” compared to the 23’” length of the curlew. But that’s not a useful comparison unless they happen to be standing next to each other! Marlin Harms photographed both birds together. Can you tell which is which? Another tip: look for a dark striped head on the whimbrel and a dark eye line. Curlews lack those dark stripes. You’ll see both birds down at the surf’s edge probing for sand crabs, marine worms or amphipods. And if you can’t tell the difference, that’s O.K. Just enjoy watching the busy birds foraging and enjoy some time watching the waves and wildlife.