Hudsonian Whimbrel, Numenius hudsonicus
Hudsonian Whimbrels are shorebirds that breed in the subarctic regions of northern Canada and Alaska from late May to early June when there is a seasonal abundance of insects and invertebrates to sustain them during the short Arctic summer.
Hudsonian Whimbrels are commonly found in open tundra habitats, which are characterized by low-lying vegetation, mosses, and wetlands. They often forage in wetlands, including freshwater ponds, marshes, and shallow pools. They may also forage along coastal areas, particularly in the vicinity of freshwater streams and rivers where insects and invertebrates are plentiful.
They are primarily carnivorous during their breeding season. They forage for beetles, flies, caterpillars, spiders, small crustaceans, and aquatic invertebrates like freshwater insects and larvae. They may also feed on berries during the late summer and early fall when berries are available in the Arctic tundra.
Hudsonian Whimbrels’ keen eyesight helps them locate insects and other small animals on the tundra. They pace slowly, stopping periodically to probe the ground or peck at insects and invertebrates they encounter. They use their long, curved bills to probe the soft tundra soils and mud in search of invertebrates.
During courtship male Hudsonian Whimbrels engage in aerial displays, such as singing and flying in circles to attract females and establish their territory. The males may also perform ground displays, including posturing and calling to demonstrate their fitness and attract a mate.
Hudsonian Whimbrel nests are simple scrapes in the ground, lined with a minimal amount of whatever grasses, mosses, and other tundra vegetation are available on the tundra floor.
Females typically lay two to four olive or brownish eggs with blotches and spots that blend into the tundra environment. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs, sitting on them and rotating them to keep them warm and protect them from the cold Arctic temperatures. Incubation lasts for about 21 to 25 days.
The chicks are able to leave the nest soon after hatching and can forage for food with the guidance of their parents.
The diet of both adult and juvenile Hudsonian Whimbrels primarily consists of insects, invertebrates, and berries found in the Arctic tundra. They use their long bills to probe for food in the ground or shallow water.
The chicks grow rapidly under the care of their parents and are usually able to fledge (leave the nest and become capable of flight) within a few weeks after hatching. After fledging, the young whimbrels continue to be cared for and protected by their parents. They are still vulnerable to predation by Arctic foxes, birds of prey, and gulls.
Hudsonian Whimbrels are migratory birds that undertake long-distance migrations between their breeding grounds in the Arctic and their wintering areas in more temperate regions. They typically begin their southward migration from their Arctic breeding grounds in late summer or early fall, usually between August and September. They follow several migratory routes, with some traveling along the eastern coast of North America and others using the interior flyways. They may also cross the Gulf of Mexico during their migration.
Hudsonian Whimbrels primarily winter in coastal and wetland habitats of the Gulf Coast of the United States, the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of northern South America. Their northward migration back to the Arctic occurs in late spring.