Long-billed Curlew
(Numenius americanus)


Picture of bird
© Glen Tepke (www.pbase.com/gtepke)
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

In Canada, the Long-billed Curlew breeds in short-grass prairie and mixed, intermontane grasslands of British Columbia, Alberta, and western Saskatchewan. It was once a common breeder in Manitoba, but is now considered extirpated from the province (Thompson 1891, Environment Canada 2013). The most recent Breeding Bird Survey results suggest that the population in Canada has decreased by about 30% relative to 1970. The species was designated as Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2002 and reconfirmed as such in 2011 (COSEWIC 2011e, COSEWIC 2002a). It was listed as such under the Species at Risk Act in 2005. The reasons for designation include significant historical and on-going habitat loss and degradation on both the breeding and wintering grounds; ongoing conservation concern is warranted. 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)Special Concern2011 
SARA (Canada)Special Concern2005 
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Apparently secure2015 
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
CanadaModerate DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada10,000 - 50,000 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

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between late April and early May and ends in early July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

Historic declines were likely linked to market hunting, which largely eliminated Long-billed Curlews from migration stopover sites along the east coast of the United States. On the breeding grounds, historic loss of native grasslands led to declines in abundance of breeding birds, especially in the eastern half of the species' former range (Dugger and Dugger 2002). Habitat loss, both on the breeding and the wintering grounds, remains the largest current threat to the species' populations (COSEWIC 2002a), as native grasslands in Canada are lost to agriculture, development, and invasive species, and the wetlands and grasslands used by wintering birds face similar threats. Additional threats include changes in the pattern and frequency of fires, pesticide use, and the impacts of climate change on habitat through increasing temperatures and drought events (COSEWIC 2011e). The Long-billed Curlew is currently part of a multi-species action plan for Grasslands National Park (Parks Canada Agency 2016). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, 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
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation