August 7-10, 2009, volunteers throughout California's Central Valley helped biologists from PRBO answer the question: Where do all the Curlew's go?
This 'citizen science' project is a cooperation between Audubon California, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and PRBO Conservation Science. The goal is to determine how important California's Central Valley is for wintering Long-billed Curlews. (more details below)
If you'd like to volunteer on future surveys, contact your regional coordinator. Stay tuned for information and survey dates.
Where Do All the Curlews go?
A New Bird Citizen Science Project in California’s Central Valley
Right now, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Audubon California, and PRBO Conservation Science are looking for citizen scientist recruits to learn more about Long-billed Curlew use of inland valleys in California. With vast expanses of dry and irrigated pastures, alfalfa fields, and post-harvest rice fields, this region is one of the most important in the world for Long-billed Curlews during migration and winter. The purpose of the survey is to estimate the total number of migrating and wintering curlews in the interior valleys of California, to identify hot spots of occurrence, and learn more about which types of croplands they prefer. The Central Valley, Imperial Valley and Carrizo Plain are the initial foci of our interest.
We are soliciting birders to help us in this endeavor by first helping us identify areas of curlew occurrence in the Central Valley, Imperial Valley and Carrizo Plain, and secondly by volunteering to participate in a broad scale survey we are organizing for these valleys between 13 and 16 September 2007. Surveys are conducted by driving all roads in predetermined areas and counting all curlews that can been seen from the roads. Surveying areas are sized so that they can be covered by one or two people in about half a day.
Helping answer the question of how Long-billed Curlews use the Central Valley for migration and wintering habitat is critical to finding ways to protect and enhance agricultural fields and other important habitats for curlews in the Valley. Under the US Shorebird Conservation Plan (see http://www.fws.gov/shorebirdplan/), they are categorized as a highly imperiled species, mainly due to population declines, low population size, and threats to their non-breeding and breeding grounds. Survey efforts in the winter of 2006/2007 coordinated by PRBO Conservation Science and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles counted a minimum of 20,000 curlews using the interior of California.
As its name implies, the Long-billed Curlew stands out for its long, down-curved bill and its large size. In fact this is the largest shorebird in North America. The largest females (males are smaller) can have bills exceeding seven inches and body masses over 900 grams (almost 2 pounds). During the summer, this species breeds in open grasslands, including some agricultural fields (especially in the Great Basin) from central Oregon and north-eastern California east to the mid-western states as well as in the grassland regions of southern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Of all the species in the genus Numeniini, this shorebird has one of the shortest migrations, mainly migrating west and south to wintering areas including interior regions of California, Texas, and Mexico but especially coastal California, Mexico, and Texas. This survey, the first of its kind, is very important for determining which habitats are important to Long-billed Curlews in California.
To learn how you can help us gather the information needed for the conservation of Long-billed Curlews, contact the regional coordinators as follows:
Central Valley: Gary Langham, Audubon California firstname.lastname@example.org, or 292-1866 ext 4
Carrizo Plain: Andrea Jones, Audubon California email@example.com, or
Imperial Valley: Kathy Molina, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, firstname.lastname@example.org, or (213) 763-3368.
Overall Project Coordinator: Dave Shuford, PRBO Conservation Science, email@example.com, (415) 868-0371
A project of PRBO, Audubon California, and the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.