Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus) 24 September 2011. Pajaro Dunes, Watsonville, SCZ, CA Photo © 2011 Joseph Morlan


In honor of the total lunar eclipse this morning (10 December 2011), I am posting another member of the genus Numenius which is Greek for “new moon” (for the crescent shape of the bill). In keeping with the eclipse theme, this species name is phaeopus which means “dark countenance.”

This species is somewhat smaller with shorter bill than the Long-billed Curlew and has a more strongly patterned head. Unlike the Long-billed Curlew, the Whimbrel breeds much further north and favors the immediate coast, usually avoiding the interior during migration and winter.

Four subspecies are recognized with N. p. hudsonicus confined mostly to North America where it was formerly (before 1957) considered a full species, the "Hudsonian Curlew." Hudsonicus differs from the three Palearctic races in having the lower back and rump dark brown with black marks, not contrasting with the back. The other races have a white rump and lower back with variable barring.

Digiscoped with Panasonic DMC-LZ5 | Nikon FieldScope III | 30XWA |hand-held (no adapter)
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