Many populations of large, migratory shorebirds are experiencing significant declines. These declines can be attributed to a variety of factors, including habitat loss and human disturbance throughout their annual cycle.
One of these large shorebird species is the Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), a medium- to long-distance migrant that can be found in coastal Massachusetts from July through late September as they migrate southward from their Arctic and sub-Arctic breeding grounds. While in Massachusetts, they spend almost all of their time in the saltmarsh feeding on fiddler crabs—an important staple in their diet. After replenishing their energy reserves, Whimbrels in Massachusetts will typically make a non-stop, trans-oceanic flight to their wintering grounds in the Caribbean Islands and northern South America.
Whimbrel populations are particularly vulnerable to decline, given their dependence on coastal resources as well as being targeted by hunters in the tropics. Given these pressing issues, Manomet and our project partners have identified Whimbrel as a current priority for conservation and research. Thankfully, through the use of innovative technology, there are new, efficient solutions for answering some of the remaining mysteries of the Whimbrel’s life history.