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A photo of a Bristle-thighed Curlew (Numenius tahitiensis)
Bristle-thighed Curlew

Bristle-thighed Curlew

Numenius tahitiensis

The Bristle-thighed Curlew, Numenius tahitiensis, presents itself as a medium-sized shorebird, bearing a distinctive long, downward-curving bill and peculiar bristled feathers at the base of its legs. With a body length ranging from 40 to 44 centimeters and a wingspan of approximately 84 centimeters, females tend to be slightly larger than males. Its plumage is a mottled brown on the upper body, contrasting with a lighter underbelly and a rust-colored or buffy tail, which aids in distinguishing it from its close relative, the Whimbrel.

Identification Tips

Upon closer inspection, one may note the larger buff spots on the upper body, the unmarked light belly, and the barely marked flanks. The tail color and pale buffy-orange rump are key features that set the Bristle-thighed Curlew apart from the Whimbrel.


The Bristle-thighed Curlew favors the low-lying tundra near shorelines for its breeding grounds, specifically along the lower Yukon River and Seward Peninsula.


This curlew breeds in the remote expanses of Alaska and migrates to winter in the tropical Pacific islands, spanning areas such as Micronesia, Fiji, Tuvalu, Tonga, the Hawaiian Islands, Samoa, French Polynesia, and Tongareva (Penrhyn atoll).


The Bristle-thighed Curlew exhibits a remarkable migratory behavior, with adults departing their chicks at about five weeks of age to migrate south. The young curlews continue to feed and grow until they are capable of undertaking the journey themselves, which includes a nonstop flight of over 4,000 kilometers from Alaska to Laysan.


Nests are simple ground depressions lined with tundra moss. The eggs, numbering four in a clutch, are greenish with brown spots. Both parents share the responsibility of incubation, which lasts around 24 days, and they remain protective of their chicks post-hatching.

Diet and Feeding

A diverse diet sustains the Bristle-thighed Curlew, ranging from vegetation such as flowers and berries to insects, marine life, and even other birds' eggs. Notably, they exhibit the unique behavior of using rocks to break open eggs, a rare instance of tool use among shorebirds.

Conservation Status

The Bristle-thighed Curlew is currently classified as Near Threatened. Concerns for its conservation revolve around habitat encroachment and the threat posed by introduced predators in its wintering grounds.

Bristle-thighed Curlew Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Bristle-thighed Curlews on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
Chelsea Riggs
24 Nov 2023 - 3:27am
United States

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