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From Kanuti to Colombia, and Churchill to Chile: shorebird biologists flock to talk about Whimbrels
Alaska Region, December 4, 2013
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Well, shorebird biologists sure do love their shorebirds!  One shorebird researcher attending the Fifth Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group meeting in Santa Marta, Colombia, was proud to show off her exquisite shorebird tattoos.  
It’s only appropriate that the Whimbrel is the top species! Isn’t it everyone’s?
Well, shorebird biologists sure do love their shorebirds! One shorebird researcher attending the Fifth Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group meeting in Santa Marta, Colombia, was proud to show off her exquisite shorebird tattoos. It’s only appropriate that the Whimbrel is the top species! Isn’t it everyone’s? - Photo Credit: Abby Powell/USGS

Do you know what a Whimbrel is? With a distinctive long-billed look, an official USFWS designation as a species of conservation concern, and an annual range which includes nearly every country in the Western Hemisphere, the Whimbrel is a species everybody should know about! The Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a large migratory shorebird (a curlew, specifically) that in the Americas, breeds in the tundra of Alaska and Canada, winters largely along the coasts from Mexico to Chile, and migrates through many countries and states in between. Notwithstanding this compelling description here, as well as recent efforts by a few shorebird researchers to better spread the word about Whimbrels (including results from my research on the species at Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska), the Whimbrel has toiled in relative obscurity for decades—even among many shorebird biologists.

 

The obscurity of the Whimbrel may have changed considerably (at least among biologists!) in September 2013 at the Fifth Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group (WHSG) meeting in Santa Marta, Colombia. At that meeting, colleagues at Migratory Bird Management (USFWS), the U.S. Geological Survey, and La Asociación CALIDRIS (the Colombian non-governmental organization hosting the meeting), and I sponsored a “Whimbrel Symposium” entitled, “The Whimbrel: Addressing hemispheric-scale issues of biology, ecology, and conservation.” We recruited nine speakers to present the results from their recent Whimbrel research. The symposium talks ranged from breeding ecology studies in Alaska and Churchill, Canada, to state-of-the-art telemetry research documenting migration and connectivity along the Pacific and Atlantic Flyways, to wintering ecology studies in El Salvador, Colombia, and Chile.

Approximately 150 shorebird aficianados, researchers, and conservationists from across the Western Hemisphere attended the meeting, with simultaneous translation available in English and Spanish. The location of the biennially-held WHSG meeting “migrates” each time, with previous meetings held in the U.S. (Boulder, Colorado), Venezuela, Mexico, and Canada. The 2015 meeting will take place on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We look forward to hearing more about Whimbrels and other shorebirds then!


Contact Info: Christopher Harwood, 907-455-1836, christopher_harwood@fws.gov



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