Populations of large shorebirds have been on the decline for years. This, coupled with the notorious mystery of their migration habits and land use, indicates a bleak future for numbers of Whimbrel, and the natural landscapes they rely on for survival.
The Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a large, long-distance migratory shorebird with a declining population that breeds in Arctic and subarctic North America. They can be found in stopover sites within the saltmarshes and beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts from July to October as they feed on fiddler crabs. This locally abundant food source allows the birds to stockpile the energy reserves needed to fuel their subsequent nonstop flight to their coastal wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America. In recent years, shorebird scientists have begun to unravel the mysteries of the Whimbrel.
Since 2014, Manomet’s shorebird science staff have successfully deployed four lightweight satellite transmitters on juvenile Whimbrels in the marshes of Cape Cod, Massachusetts during southbound migration. These transmitters have the capability to relay specific location data for several years and allow us to answer specific questions about migration, including:
- Identification of important feeding and roosting locations at migratory stopover sites
- Timing and patterns of migration
- Location of Arctic nesting sites
- Location and use of tropical wintering sites
- Identification of threats the birds encounter