Whimbrels, Numenius phaeopus
Eurasian or Common Whimbrels are coastal wading birds that nest in the Arctic and subarctic regions across northern North America, Europe and Asia and migrate to coasts in Africa, South America, southern Asia, Australia, North America.
Whimbrels use their long, downcurved bills to probe the soft ground for food. They feed on marine worms, small crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and even some plant matter like berries and seeds.
They forage in open areas of the tundra, including wetlands, marshes, and damp grassy meadows, in coastal wetlands, estuaries, and mudflats, in shallow ponds and lakes, along riverbanks and streams, in pools that collect water during the brief Arctic summer and in open grasslands within the tundra.
They build their nests on the ground in open tundra or wetland habitats. The nests are shallow depressions in the ground, often lined with grasses, moss, and other plant materials. They try to conceal their nests and eggs from potential predators.
Females usually lay four eggs. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs for about 24 to 28 days until they hatch. Both parents actively protect the nest and eggs from threats. After the eggs hatch, both parents care for the chicks.
Whimbrel chicks are precocial. They are born with downy feathers and are mobile shortly after hatching. The parents initially feed them insects, and marine invertebrates, which they find by probing the soft ground with their long bills. Whimbrel chicks are capable of foraging and quickly learn to feed themselves.
Whimbrel chicks fledge, or leave the nest, when they are around 20 to 25 days old. After fledging, they continue to be cared for by the parents for some time before becoming independent.
As with many bird species, Whimbrels face various vulnerabilities during their lifecycle. Nest predation by mammals and avian predators is a significant threat to their eggs and chicks.
As the breeding season comes to an end, Whimbrels embark on their migration to their wintering grounds in coastal regions of North and South America. Whimbrels flying over the ocean are a beautiful sight.
In North America, some Whimbrels migrate along the eastern coast to spend the winter in the southeastern United States, the Caribbean islands, and northern South America. Others take a more direct route, flying over the Atlantic Ocean and spend the winter in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.
During their migration and wintering period in coastal areas, Whimbrels forage in a variety of habitats, including mudflats, tidal marshes, estuaries, and sandy shores.