Bristle-thighed Curlew

Numenius tahitiensis

This attractive wader is an extremely long-distance migrant. Bristle-thighed Curlews undertake an extraordinary cross Pacific migration from their South Pacific Island winter homes to remote grassy hills in the Seward Peninsula and Y-K Delta. When confronted by east or northeast winds some individuals will often put down on Saint Paul to rest and feed before making the final 300 mile push to their breeding grounds. These birds typically migrate early in the season (there are Pribilof records for this species in late April). Birds continue to pass through until early June. Most years on Saint Paul produce no, or only one or two records of this species. When a visiting birder locates a curlew care must be taken to separate this species from the much more regular Whimbrel. Some key features to look for are the (typically) much brighter and well marked back, buffy rump and tail, and overall warm tone to the underparts. Unless you are able to approach very closely the stiff feather shafts (bristles) that surround the base of the legs are not visible. The best field mark for this species is its call, a three parted rich whistle reminiscent of the classic human attention whistle. Whimbrels give a repetitive series of notes on one pitch. Look for this species in flat grassy areas around the island. Especially good are the bright green areas around the shoreline of Northeast and Polovina Points, and Novastoshna.