Friday, March 11, 2016

Long-billed Curlews along Warnerville Road on the California Prairie

Sometimes you just see odd sights. We were visiting the California prairie a few miles south from where we saw and photographed the Horned Larks. We saw a flock of gray birds in the meadow, and from a distance I thought were maybe some doves, but as we drew closer we could see they had ridiculously long bills.
They were Long-billed Curlews (Numenius americanus)! I'm sure I've seen them before, but I can't find a single picture of one in my archives. It was a surprise to see so many of them out here, as I thought they were shorebirds. It turns out that they are, but they breed in grasslands, and will use their long bills to search for earthworms in the grass, as well as picking off larger insects like grasshoppers from the surface. They will migrate to coastal areas and wetlands and use their bills to dig for invertebrates in the tidal flats.
There were around sixty of them in the corner of the pasture. They didn't seem overly concerned about the traffic passing by (or the crazy couple in the car with the cameras).
We started down the road to look for the Great Horned Owls that we saw two weeks ago, and stopped a quarter mile away. By then something had spooked the flock and the entire group flew by, headed to places unknown.

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