Monday, May 15, 2017

Curlews and Willets

Visitors to Cape Hatteras National Seashore are often fortunate to see various shorebirds and wading birds along the beach or in the marsh. Long-billed curlews can occasionally be seen, but they are not as common as Willets which frequent Ocracoke year around, and can be abundant on the beach.

Long-billed Curlew, photo by Frank Schulenburg

Willet, photo by Dick Daniels

Visitors to the Seashore might be surprised to learn that curlews and willets were hunted extensively in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The following promotion was included in an 1890 advertisement for the Ponder Hotel on Ocracoke Island: "Sportsmen find game in abundance. It is remarked that the curlew and willet shooting surpasses the quail shooting of California." I can remember hearing my father (he was born in 1911) saying that shorebirds were "good eating!"

Today, curlews, willets, and other shorebirds are protected species. Their numbers have increased in recent decades, although loss of habitat still threatens their long-term survival.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:  


  1. Anonymous7:32 AM

    I guess the Carolina Parakeet was good eating too. That bird is now extinct. Florida has the dubious record, the last known bird shot dead in Okeechobee County (according to wikipedia.) I wonder if some people poach these shorebirds. A wave of immigrants unfamiliar with the rule and regulations may threaten the long term survival of shore birds too.

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