|Conservation status||Numbers were seriously depleted by market hunters in late 19th century, have recovered somewhat since.|
|Habitat||Shores, mudflats, marshes, tundra. Found on a wide variety of habitats on migration. Most common on mudflats, but also found on rocky shores, sandy beaches, salt marshes, flooded agricultural fields, grassy fields near coast. In summer, breeds on Arctic tundra.|
Forages by walking on open flats, picking up items from surface or probing just below surface; despite long bill, does not seem to probe deeply. When feeding on crabs, may break off legs and crush shell before swallowing body of crab.
4, sometimes 3. Olive to buff, blotched with shades of brown. Incubation is by both sexes, roughly 24-28 days. Young: Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young feed themselves. Adults actively attack predators flying over nesting area, and will fly straight at human intruders, swerving aside at last moment. Age of young at first flight about 5-6 weeks.
Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young feed themselves. Adults actively attack predators flying over nesting area, and will fly straight at human intruders, swerving aside at last moment. Age of young at first flight about 5-6 weeks.
Includes insects, crustaceans, berries. On breeding grounds may feed mostly on insects at first, but berries (such as crowberry and cranberry) become major part of diet by late summer. On coast, often eats many crabs, also amphipods and other crustaceans, marine worms, small mollusks.
Early in breeding season, male performs flight display over nesting territory: flies in large circles, alternately fluttering higher and gliding down, while giving whistling and bubbling song. On ground, members of pair may call together. Nest site is on ground, usually in dry raised area near low-lying wet tundra. Nest (probably built mostly by female) is shallow depression, lined with bits of lichen, moss, grass.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Has a wide wintering range, from our Pacific and southeastern coasts to southern South America. Whimbrels from European and Asian races, with white on lower back and rump, sometimes stray to North America.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA series of 5-7 loud, clear, whistled notes: pip-pip-pip-pip-pip.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Whimbrel
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Whimbrel
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.