Eskimo Curlew
(Numenius borealis)


Picture of bird
© Henry Eeles Dresser - License
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Eskimo Curlew was once a common sight at stopover locations in the Great Plains in spring and in Atlantic Canada in fall. The species' current status is unknown; at best it is exceedingly rare and at worst, it is extinct. It bred in the tundra of the Northwest Territories and wintered in the pampas of Argentina, but recent searches in both areas have yielded no confirmed sightings. The last specimen obtained was a bird shot in Barbados in 1963. Unregulated market hunting brought this species to the brink of extinction and, although no longer hunted, populations have not recovered. The Eskimo Curlew was first assessed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada in 1978 (COSEWIC 2009i). It was later listed as such under the Species at Risk Act. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2009 
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003 
IUCN (Global)Critically endangered2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - red2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Critically imperiled2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaData DeficientData DeficientBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada0 - 50 adults (includes birds breeding and migrating within Canada)

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

Conservation and management

The so-called "dough birds", Eskimo Curlews were considered a delicacy and were killed by the thousands at migratory stopover sites both in the interior and along the east coast of North America. When hunting was regulated in 1916, recovery of this species may have been limited due to land use changes in the North American prairies and on the wintering grounds in the South American pampas (Environment Canada 2007). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view the Recovery Strategy, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Arctic Plains and MountainsArctic Plains and Mountains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other
Taiga Shield and Hudson PlainsTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation