7200 Miles Away From Home to My Town: The Whimbrel Amazing Journey

A group of Whimbrel (Numineus phaeopus) spotted at Bengkulu beach on October 29th, 2011

I see a group of around 20 birds flying and finding their food around my town’s beach recently.  Seem to me this kind of bird is unusual, because i never met this kind of bird before since i was a kid. Then i surfed  the internet to find out what  kind of this bird is. It amazed me to know that this bird is the whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus).  What makes me amazed is how these birds travel such a long way (7200 miles !) from their home to the place they never knew  with just that  long bended bill and long leg as their  only capital to travel.  

Well that question is too "human" i think. True. The real thing that happens,is that these birds actually are on their migrating season.  Their home town are in the cold area in earth, the Arctic in the eastern and western hemispheres such as the subarctic of North America, Europe and Asia as far as south as Scotland.  They breed in summer, than migrate to avoid winter.

The whimbrel bird (Numineus phaeopus)  looks very much like Curlews and have similarly down-curved bills but they are smaller, with shorter bills and obvious stripes through the crown. It is mainly greyish brown above and whitish below. It uses its long, down-curved bill to probe deep in the sand of beaches for its food. Unfortunately, i didn’t hear their sound while i was watching them. 

From Wikipedia,  it stated that this bird is a migratory species and being a coastal bird during migration. It also statet that this bird is doing wintering on coasts in south Africa, South America, south Asia into Australia and southern North America. I didn’t notice word Indonesia especially Bengkulu there.
Route of whimbrel from Arctic to Bengkulu Indonesia

The existence of these bird leave me with the curiousity, why some of these birds are here. Did scientists never notice  that our town - Bengkulu – Indonesia – is one of their migrating route or other wise, are these birds actually changing their  migration route or even more are they losing their route?. Will they find their way back home and breed in this summer?. Because Bengkulu is separated so long way from their home at the arctic. It is about 7200 miles distance !.

The interesting facts about this bird are as follows:
  1. The Whimbrel is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
  2. This bird is an object of studies by several organization. The Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary and The Nature Conservancy in Virginia has deployed 9.5 gram satellite transmitters to track whimbrels from Virginia to the breeding grounds in Northern Canada and Alaska.
  3. One whimbrel, named Winnie, completed a nonstop flight of more than 5,000 km (3,200 miles) in 146 hours to Mackenzie River Delta, Northwest Territories, Canada, on her way to breeding grounds in Alaska. (http://www.ccb-wm.org/programs/migration/Whimbrel/whimbrel.htm)
  4. In 2010, the world's oldest surviving ringed whimbrel was spotted by RSPB aged 25 years old (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-11435139)
Well, from those fact, i am feeling lucky to have met this amazing bird, and i do really hope to see these birds stop by again next year and bring a more numbers of group member with them. I hope so.

copyright 2011 Nurul Iman Supardi
e-mail: nurulimanunib@gmail.com
Bengkulu - Indonesia

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