Friday, April 26, 2013

Eskimo Curlew

Numenius borealis
Today is the birthday of famed painter and naturalist John James Audubon, a man who is especially notable for his work The Birds of America, which was made between 1827 and 1838.. That massive work, which contains around 450 plates of North American birds, actually has images of
six birds that are now extinct.

The Eskimo Curlew is one of those six... maybe. It is a bird that is officially listed as Critically Endangered, but the last official live sighting was in 1962. There have been reports of varying reliability since then, but the exact status is still up for some debate.

Eskimo Curlews were once a species with an incredibly large population-- they were one of the most common shorebirds in the Arctic. They bred in the far northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, but made astounding long migrations all the way to Argentina.

Unfortunately those migrations were the reason for their population decline. Hunters started to target the birds during these movements, and the wild ranges that they relied on for food during their journeys were destroyed for farmland. Around 2 million birds were killed every year at the end of the 19th century.

The species is protected in most of it's range, but it may be too late now.

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered
Location : North and South America (migrates)
Size : Length up to 12in (30cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Scolopacidae -- Genus : Numenius -- Species : N. borealis
Image : Audubon

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