curlew (kûrˈlō) [key], common name for large shore birds of both hemispheres, generally brown and buff in color and with decurved bills. There are eight species, belonging to the genus Numenius. The long-billed curlew, N. americanus, its bill almost one third the body length (about 2 ft/61 cm), is now rare in the E United States; it frequents salt marshes, prairies, and tidal creeks in the West. In summer it eats locusts and other injurious insects. The Hudsonian and the nearly extinct Eskimo curlews migrate from arctic breeding grounds to South America. The bristle-thighed curlew summers and nests in Alaska and winters on South Pacific islands, where it feeds on the eggs of other birds. The curlew makes a nonstop flight between breeding grounds. Some of the godwits and ibises are called curlews. Curlews are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Charadriiformes, family Scolopacidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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