Description 12-14" (30-36 cm). The Eskimo Curlew is appreciably smaller than the smallest Whimbrel, with a more delicate build and a bill that is markedly shorter (42-58 mm), thinner, and less decurved. A narrow stripe divides the dark brown crown, but is often indistinct; the eyebrow is buff and does not contrast strongly with the dark crown and eyeline. There are buff spots and narrow buff edges on the dark upperparts, giving the bird a rich brown look in flight. The dark primaries lack the barring found in the Whimbrel. The streaked lower throat and breast are warm buff, shading to rich cinnamon on the barred axillars and wing linings, and contrasting strongly with the dark upperparts. The sides and flanks are marked with dark chevrons. The bill is mostly dark brown or reddish-black; the legs are dark green to blue-gray.
Endangered Status The Eskimo Curlew is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered throughout its historical range in the U.S.: Alaska, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas. This species was once extremely abundant, but was slaughtered by the millions both along its migration routes in North America and on its wintering grounds in South America. Ironically, this bird was hunted nearly into oblivion because of the extinction of another formerly numerous bird, the Passenger Pigeon. Since the end of the l9th century the Eskimo Curlew has hovered near extinction. Although there were some uncomfirmed sightings in the 1980s, there has not been a confirmed sighting of this bird since 1962 in Texas. If there are any Eskimo Curlews remaining on earth, their numbers are surely very low, probably not more than 100 individuals. Recovery of this species is thought be to very unlikely.
Range Breeds in northern Mackenzie, migrating south and east to coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland and offshore to South American wintering grounds. Spring migration route more westerly, through Texas and prairie states and provinces.
Voice A soft, melodious whistle: tee-tee-tee.
Similar Species See Whimbrel.
Discussion Eskimo Curlews associate with Lesser Golden-Plovers in fields, pastures, and the drier parts of salt and brackish marshes; occasionally they have been found on coastal beaches and among vegetated dunes. They are reportedly sluggish and slow to take flight. On alighting they stretch their wings above their backs, displaying the cinnamon-colored wing linings.