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Some Curlew Discoveries

Over the past few weeks, we have been learning a lot about our Curlews and their behavior. Here are a few maps that show some interesting data about our birds:

Habitat differences

Here you can see maps from two of our birds, Borah and Ada.

Borah lives on Big Creek Ranch in the Pahsimeroi valley. You can see based on his map that he rarely leaves his nest area, and has traveled a maximum of 1 mile from his nest.

Borah pattern

Borah lives in high-quality habitat in the Pahsimeroi Valley

Ada, on the other hand is nesting in the Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) near Emmett Idaho. While incubating, she made long journeys between her nest and agricultural fields, where she fed in the evenings while not sitting on the nest. She made journeys of up to 4 miles one-way to feed! *note: this map only shows Ada’s movements before the chicks hatched.

Ada pattern

Ada lives in the ACEC near Emmet, Idaho

While we haven’t done actual assessments to compare their nesting habitats, we hypothesize that these movement differences are due to the fact that Borah has more food available to him close to his nest, whereas Ada had to travel much farther to find good foraging habitat. (Before he died, ‘Carl’ also did similar long-distance foraging trips from the ACEC to farm fields, so we don’t think these differences are related to the sex of the bird).

Parenting Differences

We have also observed some parenting differences between our pair Ada and Emmett. A few weeks ago, their chicks hatched, and Liz was lucky enough to observe them just a few hours out of the egg!

Photo by Liz Urban

Ada and Emmett’s chicks

Once their chicks hatched, their movements changed. Emmett is the dedicated dad, never leaving the chicks and staying near the nesting area. Ada stayed with the family at first, but made a few trips out to feed in agriculture fields during the week. Her most recent movements show that she has moved to a completely different area of the ACEC and has left Emmett with the parenting duties. This matches up well with what we know about Curlews, since females usually stay with the chicks for 1-3 weeks before leaving the males to continue raising them. Emmett will guard them from predators and guide them to good feeding areas until the chicks eventually fledge and go off on their own at the end of the summer.

Here is a map of their locations since the chicks hatched, showing Emmett’s movements in green, and Ada’s in purple. The yellow circle shows Ada’s most recent locations over the last few days.

Ada (purple) and Emmett's (green) movements since June 6th.

Ada (purple) and Emmett’s (green) movements since June 6th.

We are excited to see what else we can learn about these birds on their breeding grounds, before they take off on their exciting migration journeys!

Have you checked out our new Curlew info page yet? Click here, or click on the curlew “featured project” picture on the left to read all about the project.

We created a “profile page” for each of the birds, with some info about them and some fun facts. This page will give you the inside scoop on all our Curlews’ names, and how they got them.


Bad news for one of our Curlews

We have some bad news to share.  Last week Jay became suspicious that something might be wrong with one of our transmitters since it was not transmitting/displaying normally. On Sunday a team led by Liz went out and was able to recover the transmitter but our fears were confirmed – unfortunately, the male Curlew of our pair, CA, is dead.

Although CA didn't make it, we are thankful we were able to recover his transmitter!

Although CA didn’t make it, we are thankful we were able to recover his transmitter! Photo by Rob Miller

A photo we took of CA while attaching his transmitter.

A photo we took of CA while attaching his transmitter in early May.Photo by Jay Carlisle

Because of the delay in finding his remains, we did not find an intact body, and cannot determine how he died. Based on our experience in recent years, our biggest cause for concern with this project was that a transmittered bird would be shot. After all, we see people out shooting – mostly ground squirrels or targets – every day at the study site and the day we trapped this male there was a recently-killed Swainson’s Hawk 150m from the curlew nest. And, we have certain evidence of curlews being shot and killed in 3 of the past 4 seasons (dead curlews with obvious bullet wounds) and we suspect it happens more than we are aware of. On her most recent visit to check the status of the birds over the Memorial Day weekend, Liz had seen numerous people shooting within 150m of where the pair was nesting and had recently hatched their chicks.  Curlews become very vocal and defensive, thus easily visible, when they are trying to protect their chicks.

We certainly cannot say that CA was shot, but whether shooting was at issue in this particular case, it remains a real risk for these curlews.

A shot Swainson's Hawk found on the ACEC near AX and CA's nest.

A shot Swainson’s Hawk found on the ACEC near AX and CA’s nest.Photo by Heidi Ware

Fortunately, the news is not all bad!  CA’s mate, AX has moved to the SE of her nest site by a few kilometers.  Though it’s hard to imagine she is still tending chicks (recently-hatched chicks usually don’t move more than 300m in first 5 days), we hope she’s found a safe place. Our second female (alpha flag code “AN”) was still incubating Monday and her eggs are due to hatch today.

On Monday evening, we were able to capture AN’s mate (alpha flag code “AE”) and attach the still-functioning transmitter and we already have signals from him in the nest area.

Our new male, 'AN', who received CA's old transmitter. Photo by Rob Miller

Our new male, ‘AE’, who received CA’s old transmitter. Photo by Rob Miller

Lastly, ‘Borah’, who we trapped 12 days ago in the Pahsimeroi Valley seems to be remaining close to his nest site and transmitting normally.  Thus, we hope this will just be a bump in the road for our new study and we’ll cross our fingers that all four birds survive and migrate successfully!

Curlew Satellite Update

During the week of May 6th we were able to attach 3 satellite transmitters to Long-billed Curlews breeding in the Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) southwest of Emmett, ID.

Here are some photos of the trapping and ‘transmittering’ process:

Transmitter, by H.Ware

Female “AX” shows off her brand new solar transmitter, aluminum USGS band, and green ‘flag’.

LBCU female bill measurements by Liz Urban

This female’s bill was too long for our calipers!

ready to release by H. Ware

Liz and Jay prepare to release our 2nd bird after attaching her transmitter. She made a beeline for her mate who was patiently guarding their nest.

To see some more photos of the capture process, check out the Idaho Statesman’s photo album.

After a week of waiting, we got our first batch of data points from the satellite! Here are two examples of the results we are seeing so far (Points displayed are those with 250m accuracy or more). These maps show the movement of two birds in our study area. These two happen to be a pair, thus the cluster of points in a similar area (around their nest).

We were interested to see that both birds seem to travel long distances to forage in agricultural lands near the ACEC. Also interesting is that many of the places they travel to forage are similar, although they are not likely to be traveling together since one bird must stay to incubate and protect the nest at all times.
It’s also interesting to note that bird “CA” is the male of the pair and is much more mobile than the female. This makes sense since the female is busy incubating during most of the day.

Right now we are calling birds after their green flag letters, but stay tuned for naming updates!

Bird CA first upload

Bird “CA”

Bird AX first upload

Bird “AX”

Look for more updates on bird movement soon!

Read other posts about our Curlew project by clicking the links below:

Upcoming Community Events

kids with binocularsIBO will be doing a number of banding demonstrations at upcoming community events this spring.

Check out the list below, and be sure to put them on your calendars. We hope to see you there!

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