Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus
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General Comments The Long-billed Curlew is the largest shorebird in North America, in length, and, considering the extreme curvature in the bill, the sight of this species is always a memorable moment. This is especially true in North Carolina and most everywhere else in the Eastern states, as this primarily Western bird winters mainly from Texas to California and farther south; relatively few make it to the East Coast. One to several decades ago, a few birds could be seen in migration somewhat regularly at extensive flats such as Portsmouth Island and in winter at prime shorebird sites along the southern half of the coast, such as the eastern end of Shackleford Banks, Bird Shoal, and Fort Fisher/Zeke's Island. Since about 2000, the species has become even more scarce, and now only one to several reports a year come from our coastal sites, and few if any now spend the winter. As the comments above imply, the species favors the most extensive tidal flats and shallow salt/brackish waters along the coast, almost always where large numbers of other shorebirds are present. There is just one state record for the far inland part of the state, including the inner half of the Coastal Plain, despite a few birds each fall undoubtedly flying over these regions to reach the coast.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient and winter visitor/resident, declining in recent years (though never numerous). Formerly (prior to 2000), rare and local, but regular, at scattered coastal sites in fall and winter, sparingly into spring, a few summer records; since 2000, very rare to rare migrant and winter visitor, only at a few highly favored sites (mostly now on Core and Shackleford Banks in Carteret). Mainly late Jul to late Mar, sparingly in Apr, May, and Jun. Two of the only three records in the province "inland" appear to be birds downed by hurricanes: two in Jones, 5 Sep 1999; and one at New Bern, 27 Aug 1998. A third "inland" record was one seen at the Swan Quarter Ferry Terminal (Hyde), on 27 Apr 2018. Peak counts: 4, Portsmouth Island, on two dates -- 18 Jul 1987 and 8 Oct 1983; 4, Cape Lookout Bight (Carteret), 4 Jul 2016.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains Accidental. The only far inland record for the state is one photographed at Hooper Lane (Henderson), 29 Aug - 2 Sep 2010* [Chat 75:43-44 link].
Finding Tips The best places in recent years have been flats at or near the eastern end of Shackleford Banks, at Ophelia Island across from Sealevel (Carteret), and at Portsmouth Island, all of which require boats/ferries to reach. Until a few years ago, the flats around The Basin at Fort Fisher often hosted a bird.
Attribution LeGrand[2020-10-20], LeGrand[2020-04-18], LeGrand[2018-11-08]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.