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Game and Fish partners with conservation groups to study long-billed curlews in southwest ND

Published: Jun. 18, 2022 at 9:22 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has teamed up with two leading conservation organizations to study the movements of a conspicuous shorebird to better recognize the bird’s habitat use in southwestern North Dakota and elsewhere.

“We’re here looking for long-billed curlews, the largest shorebird in North America, hoping to be able to find some nests and then, therefore, be able to trap adult birds and ideally outfit them with satellite or cellular transmitters that can give us data remotely,” said Jay Carlisle with the Intermountain Bird Conservatory.

Biologists deployed five transmitters on long-billed curlews in North Dakota.

“The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is providing funding for this project, both through our State Wildlife Grants Program, but also our nongame fund, the Watchable Wildlife tax checkoff monies,” said Sandy Johnson, Game and Fish conservation biologist.

Curlews are easily recognized by their size and their long curved bill.

“It’s about the size of a sharptail, but on stilts. And with that, sieve-like bill, is really well known, people recognize that quite a bit,” said Kevin Ellison with the American Bird Conservancy.

Long-billed curlews are on the North Dakota species of conservation priority list because their population has declined.

“And they’re also seen as an indicator species for the health of grasslands, but even agricultural lands. And so, mainly it’s because of this population decline that has happened disproportionately in different areas, that there’s been interest in understanding more about the full annual cycle of long-billed curlews and ideally stitching together what are some limiting factor, what are some threats that affect populations and is that affecting different populations differently?” said Carlisle.

Data collected will provide valuable information on habitats these birds are using.

“The long-billed curlews are only here for a couple of months and then they migrate and then they’re on the Texas coast or coastal states for seven, eight, nine months. So it’s really important to learn more about, you know, are we all doing our part to make sure that this bird has safe places all along the way?” said Johnson.

The long-billed curlew study wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation from private landowners.

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