While wandering near the Tule River in McArthur Swamp (Shasta County CA) Leonard’s and my attention was suddenly drawn to several very upset long-billed curlews (Numenius americanus) flying about, calling in alarm and “dive-bombing” at something in the grass. The object of their attention was a coyote who quickly ran off across the fields. I do not blame the coyote for its hasty retreat as the curlews were very aggressive.
Since each year long-billed curlews nest in that area, Leonard and I assumed the coyote was after curlew eggs or chicks. Sure enough, in a few minutes a pair of long-billed curlews with two older chicks appeared.
Long-billed curlews are shorebirds that breed in the grasslands of the Great Plains and the Great Basin and winter along the western coast of North America and in Central America. Curlew’s build their scrape nests in sparse, short grass and once the chicks hatch and can leave the nest the parents move their brood into taller grass. A long-billed curlew chick is capable of leaving the nest and feeding itself after about five hours.
Although both parents are involved in building the nest, incubating the eggs and caring for the young chicks, the female abandons her brood two to three weeks after the eggs hatch. It is then the responsibility of the male to care for the youngsters until they are ready to be on their own. These two young long-billed curlews were accompanied by two adults, I assume both their parents. Since the female was still with her brood these youngsters are most likely three weeks of age or less.
More information about long-billed curlews can be found in my previous post “Long-billed Curlew” 05-30-12.
I learned an interesting tidbit while reading about long-billed curlews. Another common name for this bird is candlestick bird. Although their numbers are declining in the San Francisco Bay Area, long-billed curlews, or candlestick birds, were once common. A marshy spit of land south of San Francisco was called Candlestick Point because so many long-billed curlews lived there. When a stadium, currently the home of the San Francisco 49ers and also formerly the home of the Giants baseball team, was built on that location, it was called Candlestick Stadium after the location where it was built, Candlestick Point. I never knew that “candlestick” in the stadium name was a long-billed curlew.