Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
The Long-billed Curlew breeds from northeastern New Mexico northward into southern parts of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Its breeding range extends northwest into northern California. In North America, wintering populations of Long-billed Curlews concentrate in southern Texas, across the border of western Texas and eastern New Mexico, and in parts of California, especially the Imperial Valley.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here
The Long-billed Curlew prefers a variety of expansive, open, flat or rolling areas. Breeding curlews use short-grass prairies, pastures, and meadows, preferably near water. Long-billed Curlews also use extensive pastures and areas invaded by exotic cheatgrass. Wintering birds inhabit tidal mudflats, sparse salt marshes, lake shores, and croplands.
Considering the length of this curlew's bill, open and sparsely vegetated habitats are the most suitable. Wading in shallow water or walking across exposed flats, wintering birds probe for crabs, earthworms, marine worms, and shrimp. They also pick items from the surface; pecking is the dominant feeding method on the breeding grounds. In summer, the Long-billed Curlew consumes grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, and caterpillars. This shorebird does not appear to eat any vegetable matter.
Long-billed Curlews are monogamous for the breeding cycle, and may re-form old pairs. Male Long-billed Curlews often return to the same breeding territory and reoccupy it before the females arrive. With graceful flight displays, resonant calls, and ritualized fighting, males establish their territory and attract a mate. The female selects one of several scrapes, usually near an object like a dirt mound or a cow patty. The pair deepens and then lines the scrape with grasses, pebbles, bark, and dry dung.
Females usually lay four beige or light green eggs, densely marked with brown or purple. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 28 days, sometimes sitting with their necks resting on the ground. Long-billed Curlew chicks are precocial; within a few hours they leave the nest for denser, taller grasses, and begin to feed themselves within a day. With aggressive displays, direct attacks, and feigned injuries, both parents defend chicks from crows, coyotes, hawks, and people. Females depart within a few weeks. Young curlews fledge in 38 to 45 days.
In small groups along a broad range, Long-billed Curlews migrate short distances from March through May. Fall migration runs from early July through October. This species may maintain family groups during fall migration. Unlike other shorebirds, Long-billed Curlews do not appear to stage or follow traditional routes.