Searching the Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris)

By MaghrebOrnitho | 27 November 2010

The Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) is a critically endangered species and is one of the rarest bird species in the Palearctic. It breeds in marshes and peat bogs in the Siberian taiga and migrates to over-winter around the Mediterranean area (Edit: a study using stable isotopes found that the core breeding area was actually in the steppes of northern Kazakhstan).

The latest verified sightings were at Merja Zerga, Morocco. This was a well-known wintering site, and all records are well-documented (last time seen here is winter 1995). The latter sightings in Greece (1999), Oman (1999) and Hungary (2001) are not widely accepted.

Read also:

Ancient DNA confirms that Slender-billed Curlew is a valid species.

Slender-billed Curlew, Merja Zerga, Morocco, February 1995. Photo by Chris Gomersall/RSPB images
Slender-billed Curlew, Merja Zerga, Morocco, February 1995. Photo by Chris Gomersall/RSPB images

If the best known site for the Slender-billed Curlew is Merja Zerga, the analysis of historical records showed that the species has frequented also several sites along the coast of North Africa from Tunisia to southern Morocco (91.5% of the 142 sites with Slender-billed Curlew records are within 1 km of the coast, Buchanan et al. 2010).

In the framework of the 1994 intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding concerning conservation measures for the Slender-billed Curlew under the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the “Slender-billed Curlew Working Group” (SBCWG) was formed in 1997. After a period of dormancy from 2003 until mid 2008, the Working Group was relaunched in December 2008. One of the SBCWG’s roles is to coordinate the effort to find the species in the known wintering sites (as is it practically impossible to search the huge potential breeding area in Siberia). 

It would be very good if you can help in this “last and final push” to find this enigmatic species before it is too late. If you are considering joining the effort, please read the “Toolkit for Finding the Slender-billed Curlews“.

Buchanan G., Crockford N. & Gretton A. 2010. The Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris in Africa. Bull ABC 17: 202-206.

Update:

You can see the report of the survey to search the Slender-billed Curlew along the Moroccan coasts carried out in February 2011:

Moores, R.D., Amezian, M. & Elbanak, A. 2011. Morocco Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) survey: Mediterranean Coast and northern Atlantic coast, 06.02.2011-13.02.2011. Unpublished report.

Distribution of accepted Slender-billed Curlew records in North Africa between 1900 and 2000 (Buchanan et al. 2010)
Distribution of accepted Slender-billed Curlew records in North Africa between 1900 and 2000 (Buchanan et al. 2010)

The only known video footage and sound-recording of Slender-billed Curlew! The recordings were made at Merja Zerga, Morocco.

4 thoughts on “Searching the Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris)

    1. MaghrebOrnitho Post author

      Hi Lolke,

      Please note that we didn’t find any Slender-billed Curlew during our search in winter 2011. The report added in the ‘update’ contains the details about the visited sites and the birds we observed.

      I wonder if this record was ever sent to the relevant people interested on this subject: the Moroccan Forestry Administration (HCEFLCD), the Moroccan Rare Birds Committee, and the Slender-billed Curlew Working Group.

      Thanks!
      Mohamed

      Reply
    1. MaghrebOrnitho Post author

      Thanks Simon for tracking this down! I saw that paper before, but failed to recognize the photo.
      Mathieu Wald also commented yesterday on FB that the photo was from that period. He even added some salt on it: “…so unfortunately no resurrection from the dead”.

      I think that Lolke probably saw the date when the photo was added to AGAMI and thought it was the date when it was taken.

      Merci!
      Mohamed

      Reply

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