Seasonal occurrence of migrant whimbrels and bristle-thighed curlews on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska

The Condor
By:  and 



Migrant Whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) and Bristle-thighed Curlews (N. tahitiensis) were recorded during five summers along coastal tundra of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. From June to September, 1975-1979, 358 flocks totalling 1,265 curlews were observed; an additional 54 flocks were identified by vocalization alone. Among the 359 flocks identified to species, 52% were of Whimbrels, 47% were of Bristle-thighed Curlews, and 1% were of both species. Flocks as large as 48 Whimbrels and 33 Bristle-thighed Curlews were recorded, but 87% of the flocks contained five or fewer birds. During 2 years with early springs a few Whimbrels and Bristle-thighed Curlews were recorded on the delta in early June; these may have been late spring migrants, oversummering nonbreeders, or very early failed breeders. Whimbrel numbers peaked twice each summer, first in middle to late July and again in late August. These peaks probably consisted mainly of late failed breeders and of successful breeders with juveniles, respectively. The patterns of occurrence of Bristle-thighed Curlews were more complex, with up to three peaks in abundance each season, probably consisting of the following populational subclasses: (1) early failed breeders from late June to mid-July, (2) late failed breeders in late July, and (3) successful breeders and juveniles in early August. Most Bristle-thighed Curlews were gone by mid-August and Whimbrels, by early September. For both species the earliest juveniles were seen in late July in flocks with adults. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is conservatively estimated to support several thousands of both Whimbrels and Bristle-thighed Curlews. This area is considered to be particularly important for Bristle-thighed Curlews because it is the primary of only two known areas used during migration between their nesting grounds in Alaska and the first known stop on their wintering grounds in the Hawaiian Island chain, a transoceanic distance of 3,800 km. Whimbrels are more ubiquitous in their distribution and use of habitats, and their migration strategy may provide more flexibility in choice of timing and routes.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Seasonal occurrence of migrant whimbrels and bristle-thighed curlews on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska
Series title The Condor
DOI 10.2307/1368835
Volume 90
Issue 4
Year Published 1988
Language English
Publisher Cooper Ornithological Society
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 9 p.
First page 782
Last page 790
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
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