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Whimbrel

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

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Johan van Rensburg
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Whimbrel

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Mon Apr 09, 2007 12:10 pm

Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus

Physical characteristics:

The Whimbrel is a large shorebird (length – 42 cm, wingspan – 76 to 88 cm, weight – 300 to 500 g) with a strikingly long, decurved bill, pinkish at the base, long neck and medium length bluish-grey legs. It is streaked and buff overall with small light and dark spots. Its crown is dark with a distinct light stripe in the middle. The pale face is marked with a dark eye-stripe. The neck and breast is streaked brown and the belly and under-tail coverts are white. Sexes are similar in plumage, but the female is larger with longer bill. Summer and winter plumage remains unchanged.

Image

Distribution and habitat:

This wader is the one of the most widespread of the curlews, breeding across much of sub-arctic North America, Europe and Asia as far south as Scotland. They migrate in large flocks during the northern winter to the coasts of Africa. They feature at coastal beaches, mudflats, and coastal salt meadows. They may also be found inland, both around wetlands as well as short dry grassland, farmland, golf courses, parks. Their peak arrival in South Africa is August to October and they remain until April, although a small number may be found throughout the year.

Behaviour:

It is fairly gregarious outside the breeding season. They migrate with other shorebirds, and often act as a sentinel species. Very wary, Whimbrels are often the first to alert the other birds to danger. They prefer to roost on exposed shoals, tops of mangrove trees or in shallowly flooded clearings in mangroves which face the open sea.

Diet:

It uses its long, down-curved bill to probe deep in the sand of beaches at the tideline with other waders for aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans, worms and molluscs but also feeds on vegetable matter and insects. The curve of the Whimbrel's bill nicely matches the shape of crab burrows. The bird reaches into the burrow, extracts the crab, washes it if it is muddy, and sometimes breaks off the claws and legs before swallowing it. Indigestible parts are excreted in faecal pellets.

Hunting technique:

Whimbrels probe deeply and move as they feed, generally alone or in small, spread out parties. They may also pick off food found on the surface. They can take large prey but tear it to pieces before eating it. Whimbrels forage on both mud and sandy surfaces, but avoid very soft mud. They are only found in coastal areas and do not forage inland.

Status:

Adult Whimbrels have few natural predators. Few succumb to predation during migration, probably because they are very vigilant. Human impact is the biggest threat. Whimbrels are affected by habitat loss of nesting sites and refuelling staging posts along the migration route, destruction of coastal wetlands along its winter range and pollution of shorelines. Numbers declined sharply during 19th century, because of hunting for sport and food. The greatest current threat to the species is loss of coastal wetland habitat and environmental contamination.
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Unread postby Bush Baptist » Tue Apr 10, 2007 12:45 pm

Have seen them here on the Cape coast.
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Unread postby francoisd » Wed Apr 18, 2007 11:45 am

Also to be found in West Coast National Park at Geelbek hide
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Unread postby Bush Baptist » Wed Apr 18, 2007 1:18 pm

Saw a few wading there on our CT outing in March with Michele Nel, C O'Dee, & Dreamer.
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Unread postby honeybee79 » Tue Apr 24, 2007 11:05 am

I've seen many of them at Velddrif and Port Owen on the West Coast. They are regulars there.

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Ex-Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby KobusF » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:21 am

Hi friends....... Found the at Port Elizabeth March 2010. Sorry for the poor pic. Help please.

3 Eurasian curlew
Image
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wildtuinman
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby wildtuinman » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:34 am

Common Whimbrel and not Eurasian Curlew.
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby KobusF » Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:52 am

Wildtuinman thank you very much!
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17/12 tot 21/12 2015 Onder Sabie
27/12 tot 2/1 2016 Letaba

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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby wildtuinman » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:13 am

You're welcome. :D
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Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby pnm » Wed Nov 27, 2013 11:15 pm

Hello to the fundis

I am new to seabirds shoreline birds so please be patiebnt! I have worked for three nights now and have donme much head scratching. Could you please confirm for two and help with a third? I will be asking for a buit more help after this, but I am determined to make educated tries at the unknowns I have . All photos were taken at The West Coast MP bird hide near the entrance. I have never seen so many terns in my life.

Please confirm - Common Whimbrel (290) (colouring and beak length and shape) I assume one legged ones are common:

Image

My apologies for the photo quality but I set iso at 80 as I knew I would have to enlarge quite a bit.

Many thanks
Pete
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wildtuinman
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby wildtuinman » Thu Nov 28, 2013 7:10 am

Hi Pete, I agree with all your id's.

Regards
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Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread postby pnm » Thu Nov 28, 2013 9:44 am

Thanks Wildtuinman. I see now I forgot to say when I saw the birds! I did the trip on the 25 Nov.

I shall be working on the rest of my doubtfuls tonight. There is one picture that is so horrible I think I may just keep it to myself.

Keep well
Pete
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