Numenius americanus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

Scientific Name: Numenius americanus Bechstein, 1812
Common Name(s):
English Long-billed Curlew
Spanish Zarapito Americano
Taxonomic Source(s): SACC. 2005 and updates. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Butchart, S., Benstead, P., Bird, J., Mahood, S.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species was once an abundant breeder over most of the prairie regions of the USA and Canada. Populations have declined throughout this range since the beginning of the 20th century as a result of over-hunting and habitat loss (owing to fragmentation, conversion to croplands, and urban development). It is now extirpated as a breeding bird in Kansas, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, eastern Nebraska, Illinois, Manitoba and south-east Saskatchewan. It migrates to winter in the southern USA and Mexico, with birds occurring irregularly in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica (AOU 1998, Hill 1998).
Countries occurrence:
Canada; Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico; United States; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Belize; Cuba; French Guiana; Guadeloupe; Jamaica; Panama; Puerto Rico; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; Virgin Islands, U.S.
Present - origin uncertain:
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:3440000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Continental populations were thought to be declining by 2% per year between 1980 and 1996 (equivalent to 16% in ten years) (AOU 1998, Hill 1998); however data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey indicate that these figures were incorrect and in fact annual declines at a rate of 0.6% between 1980 and 2006 are more realistic (Morrison et al. 2006). This equates to a decline of just 5.8% over a ten year period. However, it appears that there are considerably more Long-billed Curlews than previously thought, with a likely global population in the order of 50,000-123,000, based on recent assessments, expert opinion and statistically based surveys (Wetlands International 2006).

Trend Justification:  This species has undergone a small or statistically insignificant decrease over the last 40 years in North America (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Breeding habitat is short-grass or mixed-grass native prairie, but varies from moist meadows to very dry grasslands. It generally prefers to nest in large open expanses of relatively low vegetation, and is late maturing, long-lived and has a low reproductive output. In winter it favours intertidal habitats but will feed in adjacent pastures (Leeman and Colwell 2005).

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):10.1
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Sea-level rise may reduce the amount of available intertidal wintering habitat in future (Colwell and Mathis 2001). The loss and conversion of large areas of short grass prairie into agricultural land within its range has presumably had a major impact upon the species and is likely to the most important threat at present. Long-billed Curlew are facing increasing threats in the grasslands and prairies of North America, both on their breeding and wintering grounds. In addition, Long-billed Curlew range contractions on the eastern edge of their range continue to cause concerns.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. The American bird Conservancy has worked to increase awareness of the species as a flagship for grassland conservation in the Northern Rockies (Anon 2006/2007). Population surveys have been conducted and global population estimates generated. It occurs within a number of protected areas and areas of short grass prairie are being conserved for it and other species's benefit.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Clarify the global population estimate. Identify the principal threats driving declines and develop and appropriate management plan to reverse these. Protect key breeding and wintering sites.

Classifications [top]

4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
suitability:Suitable season:breeding major importance:Yes
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
suitability:Suitable season:non-breeding major importance:No
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.5. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Lakes (over 8ha)
suitability:Suitable season:non-breeding major importance:No
12. Marine Intertidal -> 12.4. Marine Intertidal - Mud Flats and Salt Flats
suitability:Suitable season:non-breeding major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Invasive species control or prevention:No
In-Place Species Management
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines  
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines  
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Minority (<50%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines  
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan

Bibliography [top]

Anon. 2006/2007. Case study: Long-billed Curlew. Bird Conservation: 14-15.

AOU. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Colwell, M. A.; Mathis, R. L. 2001. Seasonal variation in territory occupancy of non-breeding Long-billed Curlews in intertidal habitats. Waterbirds 24: 208-216.

Delany, S. and Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hill, D. P. 1998. Status of the Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) in Alberta.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Leeman, T.S.; Colwell, M. A. 2005. Coastal pasture use by Long-billed Curlews at the northern extent of their non-breeding range. Journal of Field Ornithology 76: 33-39.

Morrison, R. I. G.; McCaffery, B. J.; Gill, R. E.; Skagen, S. K.; Jones, S. L.; Page, G. W.; Gratto-Trevor, C. L.; Andres, B. A. 2006. Population estimates of North American shorebirds, 2006. Wader Study Group Bulletin: 67-85.

Wetland International - China Office. 2006. Relict Gull surveys in Hongjianao, Shaanxi Province. Newsletter of China Ornithological Society 15(2): 29.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Numenius americanus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22693195A93390204. . Downloaded on 20 September 2018.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided