Fun Whimbrel Facts Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Jan 12, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta
Discover interesting whimbrel facts.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.4 Min

Whimbrels are one of the most popular shorebird species. This species belongs to the Scolopacidae family. The whimbrel range is quite vast as this bird is found throughout both the northern and southern hemispheres, mostly in North America, Asia, and Scotland.

A whimbrel is a migratory bird with a large winter range. Their wintering habitats are coastal areas, mudflats, marshes, and sandy beaches in South America, South Asia, and Australia. The Hudsonian whimbrel is one of the most popular North American birds.

They are also known as one of the fastest flyers in their family. They live in groups and the migration season starts in June. During migration, sometimes they join flocks of other North American birds to fly together to their wintering destination.

Whimbrels are known for their long, curved bill, which helps them in plucking food from mud and sandy beaches. They have gray, cream, brown, or black-colored feathers, with striking patterns on their head and a white-colored belly and rump. Whimbrels feed on crabs, worms, and mollusks. Their vegetarian food chart includes berries, seeds, and grains.

During the breeding season, this shorebird becomes a bit aggressive, especially when protecting the nesting and feeding area. Their ideal breeding territories are alpine tundra and semi-arctic tundra. They prepare their nest with twigs and grasses, with a circle made of leaves around the nest.

On average they lay three to five eggs. The breeding pair protect their nest together. They have been assigned a Least Concern conservation status by the IUCN.

Keep on reading for more interesting information about whimbrels. You can also learn more about other fascinating wild animals and North American birds by reading our articles on crested ducks and reddish egrets.

Whimbrel Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a whimbrel?

A whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a species of wader or shorebirds. Whimbrels have six subspecies, including Hudsonian whimbrels, and Icelandic whimbrels. They share a close resemblance with curlew birds.

What class of animal does a whimbrel belong to?

Whimbrels belong to the Aves class of the Animalia kingdom. They also are part of the order Charadriiformes and the family Scolopacidae.

How many whimbrels are there in the world?

According to the International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, there are approximately 1,000,000-2,300,000 individuals living in our world. A decline in population has been reported in a few regions.

Where does a whimbrel live?

They can be found throughout all the continents, except Antarctica. One can easily spot a whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) in Scotland, Asian countries like Indonesia, and Vietnam, The Republic of Congo, and subarctic regions of North America.

Hudsonian whimbrels are native to North America. Whimbrel migration season begins in spring and they are known as neotropical migrants. They migrate to their habitats in the south, including coastal areas of South Asia, South America, and Australia.

What is a whimbrel's habitat?

A whimbrel's habitat includes forests, shrublands, grasslands, wetlands, farmlands, alpine tundra, and coastal areas. During the migration season, they prefer rocky shorelines, sandy beaches, tidal mudflats, marshes, and other coastal areas. While nesting, they prefer tundras and wetlands surrounded by shrubs and grass. Their habitats are being threatened by climate change.

Who do whimbrels live with?

Whimbrels are known as gregarious birds and they live in small flocks. While migrating, they don't mind collaborating with other shorebird flocks such as godwits and willets.

How long does a whimbrel live?

Depending on their diet and habitat, the average lifespan of whimbrels is nine years. The maximum recorded lifespan of a whimbrel is 24 years.

How do they reproduce?

The favorite breeding range of whimbrels is semi-arctic tundra and alpine tundra. Male birds perform various aerial stunts before breeding season to find a partner. They fly in a circular motion, sing songs, and glide in the air.

After they form a pair, they prepare a nest with grasses and twigs. They prepare a circle around the nest with various leaves. The whimbrel pair protect their nesting area together and also share the incubation duty.

On average females lay three to five eggs. The eggs are easily identified by their blueish green or light brown color. The incubation period is 22-28 days.

Feeding the chicks is also their duty until they become independent. Their feeding pattern depends on their territory and the availability of prey. Chicks gain their independence when they are six weeks old. After that, they leave the nest and can feed themselves.

What is their conservation status?

They are categorized as Least Concern species by the International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. With a decreasing population, they received the status of High Concern species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In the 2005 agreement on the conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), whimbrels earned protection and care.

Whimbrel Fun Facts

What do whimbrels look like?

A whimbrel is one of the most common shorebird species. They have a dark brown colored bill, which is long and curved downwards. Similar to large shorebirds, they also have long gray-colored legs.

They come with gray, white, cream, brown, and black colored feathers, with tan-colored striped patterns on their head. They have a white-colored rump and stomach. Due to their resemblance with curlew birds, whimbrels are often referred to as the younger cousin of curlews.

It's fascinating to learn about Whimbrels that live in grasslands and forests.

How cute are they?

Whimbrels are adorable and praiseworthy by looks. Their long bills and legs, with graciously colored feathers, make them look cute.

How do they communicate?

Whimbrels are known to communicate with each other through various sounds and postures they make. Whimbrels are social birds and are also tolerant towards other birds nesting in the same breeding territory.

Whenever they feel threatened, they try to warn off their enemies, predators, and competitive males during the pre-breeding season. They display aggressive behavior such as loud screams, aggressive body postures, bending the wings, cocking the tail, and more whimbrel call types.

How big is a whimbrel?

Whimbrels are typically 15.7-18.1 in (40-46 cm) in length, with a wingspan of 28-31.8 in (71-81 cm). Sexual dimorphism can be spotted in this species where females have a slightly larger body than males. They are slightly shorter in size compared to a curlew.

How fast can a whimbrel fly?

Whimbrels are one of the fastest shorebirds. During migration, they can maintain a speed of 53.6 mph (86.2 kph) while covering thousands of miles to reach their wintering range. They can cover great distances with ease. They nearly travel 6835 m (11,000 km) while completing a round trip during migration season.

How much does a whimbrel weigh?

Whimbrels typically weigh around 0.5-0.9 lb (270-450 g). Female birds have slightly heavier bodies than males. The heaviest whimbrel bird was a female with a weight of 1 lb (453 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

A female whimbrel is called a 'hen', and a male whimbrel is called a 'cock'.

What would you call a baby whimbrel?

Baby whimbrels are called 'chicks'.

What do they eat?

Whimbrels are carnivorous birds. Their food habits majorly depend on their habitat. A whimbrel's prey of choice includes various insects, crabs, and shrimps, worms, snails, and slugs. They devour berries, seeds, grains, and nuts as well.

Crabs are considered to be one of their primary food sources. They easily avail crabs from mudflats and marshes. They utilize their long and curved bill to pluck their prey from the ground or mud.

Are they aggressive?

Generally, whimbrels are not aggressive however, they will do anything to protect their nest and nesting area. They display various aggressive movements if threatened.

Would they make a good pet?

Unfortunately, they are incapable of being good pets. Whimbrels are wild migratory birds. Therefore, it isn't easy to tame or train this bird.

Did you know...

Whimbrel songs and calls are fascinating to hear. To attract a female to pair with, they display various areal stunts and make sounds. During this phase, they perform soft explosive or staccato natured songs. While migrating, they make calls similar to curlews or other shorebirds. They make a series of smooth and pleasant calls.

Climate change plays a key role in reshaping the range of the whimbrel. They can't withstand too much heat. Therefore, it has been observed that they could lose more than 90% of their range due to severe climate change.

Whimbrels could lose their habitats due to climate change, and they are migratory birds as well. Thereby, it's a bit difficult to spot them in the same range over recent years. For example, this bird was rediscovered on the South African coast after decades in 2016.

This species used to get mercilessly hunted in North America, South America, and the Caribbean islands.

The Atlantic coast of North America is a popular wintering spot for them.

How does the whimbrel get its name?

The name of their genus Numenius, has its root in ancient Greece. In the Greek language, 'neos' means 'new', and 'mene' means 'moon'. Ancient Greeks gave them the name because of the similarity between the shape of their bill and the shape of the new moon.

How has a whimbrel's beak adapted?

One of the adaptive abilities whimbrels possess is their downward curved long beak. In southern coastal areas, they feed on grown dwelling crabs and worms. They utilize their beak to pluck crabs from mud and sand which are key food sources in their diet.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including mountain bluebird, or horseshoe crab.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our stork coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Deeti Gupta picture

Deeti GuptaBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

A detail-oriented fact-checker with a research-oriented approach. Devika has a passion for creative writing, she has been published on multiple digital publishing platforms and editorials before joining the Kidadl team. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from St.Xavier's College, Deeti has won several accolades and writing competitions throughout her academic career.

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