Bird Database


(Numenius phaeopus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Long distance


Strongly Decreasing


Wetland loss, Climate change, Human disturbance, Hunting

Conservation Actions

Protect coastal habitats, minimize disturbance to shorebirds (e.g., keep dogs on leashes) 


(Numenius phaeopus)

The Whimbrel is the largest shorebird in New Hampshire and is easily identified by its long decurved bill. It uses this bill to reach into burrows of intertidal invertebrates, but also picks prey directly from the surface of sand or mud. In New Hampshire they are far more likely in fall, but even then are relatively rare. We don’t have good trend data for the species at the state scale, although anecdotally it appears to be less common than before 2000. The perceived decline of Whimbrels as migrants in New Hampshire may be symptomatic of an overall decline across the species’ continental range. Counts during fall migration in Virginia and along the northern coast of South America dropped significantly between 1980 and 2010, and as a result the species is now a focal species for hemispheric shorebird conservation planning.

Several Whimbrels have been fitted with radio transmitters to track their movements, and these studies have yielded important insights into the species’ biology during the non-breeding season. Some Whimbrels have needed to fly hundreds of miles out of their fall migration routes to avoid hurricanes, while others have flown through them! Transmitters have also shown that these shorebirds return to the same winter areas for many years in a row. Another recent discovery was of a spring migration roost of 20,000 Whimbrel on a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina. This single island may host half the Atlantic Flyway population of the species.

These Whimbrel migration findings highlight conservation issues facing all migratory shorebirds: risks from climate change, habitat loss, and human disturbance. It’s speculated that Whimbrels have become less common in New Hampshire because of changes to habitat in Hampton Harbor. Formerly home to extensive mussel beds, dredging and other engineering projects have altered the dynamics of this estuary to the extent that the mussel beds are mostly gone. And on a more sobering note, Whimbrel are still hunted in parts of the Caribbean and South America, adding an extra layer of danger to a migratory journey already filled with obstacles.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count