Saturday, July 28, 2012

Whimbrel

At the end of March, Erika and I began a relatively slow drive up the Pacific Coast from California to Washington State. Clearly our granddaughter's hatching was not eminent so we had to cool our heels. Just north of La Jolla, we enjoyed exploring the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

When I took this photo of Whimbrels along the beach, I was aware the bird in the background was clearly larger than the first one. Did I have a vagrant, Old World species? After considerable study, I decided that these are both North American Whimbrels. Females are usually significantly larger than males (Skeel and Mallory 1996).

Whimbrels breed in the world's arctic areas. In the New World, they winter from the coasts of the United States and all the way along the coasts of South America. Although some Whimbels fly overland (and are seen in the upper midwest), others make phenomenal, non-stop, ocean flights of up to 4000 km (from New England to South America). In the winter and during migration, coastal Whimbrels use their long-decurved bills to extract fiddler crabs from crab burrows in the sand  (Skeel and Mallory 1996).

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