Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus   [Linnaeus, 1758]

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Order: Charadriiformes Family: Scolopacidae
BTO Codes: WM, WHIMB EURING No: 5380
Number in Britain: 500 Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status:
European: Not a species of concern
Global: (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Migrant Breeder, Passage Visitor
Subspecies: phaeopus (BW), hudsonicus (V) recorded in Britain (of 6 subsp. in the world)
Length: 41 cm Wingspan: 82 cm Weight: M/F: 430 g    
Scientific name from: Gr.: neos=new + mene=moon (i.e. crescent-shaped) and Gr.: phaios=dusky + pous=foot
World Distribution: BREEDS: n Eurasia & n North America: WINTERS: south to s Asia, Africa, Australia & South America
Habitat: Tundra, moor, heath, on migration marsh & estuary
Diet: Invertebrates and plant material according to availability; rarely probes deeply
TitBit: The Whimbrel's distinctive call is often associated with a Celtic superstition of the 'seven-whistlers', supposedly a group of six birds looking for a seventh - hearing the call augured death or other disaster.  
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos BTO ID Workshop

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: No population trend available
Distribution: No distribution maps available
British Population Size:
    Summer: 500 Pairs in 2007
    Winter: 30 individuals in 2004/05 - 2008/09
    Passage: 3000 individuals
    First Record: Recorded in Anglo-Saxon times [Fossil evidence from Devensian (last) glaciation, 10-120,000 yr ago]
    Latest Survey: Forrester, R.W. et al. (2007) The birds of Scotland SOC, Edinburgh
    Conservation Status: RED because Recent Breeding Population Decline (1981-2007),
   Previous Assessments: 2002-2007 AMBER     1996-2001 AMBER  
   Races of Concern: phaeopus RED (Recent Decline)
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    No habitat data from BBS
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries
European Population Size:
    Summer: 154 to 330 thousand pairs
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: WCA(I), WBD(II*), Bern(III), Bonn(II), AEWA
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack
Results from Satellite Tracking

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 58 x 41 mm Egg Weight: 50.0 g (of which 5 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 0
Clutch Size: 4 eggs
Incubation: 27- 28 days   by the: Male + Female
Fledging: 35 - 40days as: Precocial, downy
First Clutches Laid: Unavailable
Number of Broods: 1
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.890       
Juvenile Survival: No data
Age at First Breeding: 2 years Typical Lifespan: 11 years
Maximum Recorded Age: 24 years 1 months 25 days (set in 2010)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: E
Wing Length Adult: 253.7 ± 8.6 Range 241 - 268 mm, N =63
Juvenile: 243.6 ± 7.5 230.5 - 255 mm, N =20
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: Insufficient Data
Weight Adult: 451.0 ± 60.93 Range 355.0 - 522.0 g , N =48
Juvenile: Insufficient Data
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: Insufficient Data
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Has Included Numenius hudsonicus 
Gaelic: Eun-Bealltainn Welsh: Coegylfinir
Danish: Småspove Dutch: Regenwulp
Finnish: Pikkukuovi French: Courlis corlieu
German: Regenbrachvogel Hungarian: Kis póling
Icelandic: Spói Irish: Crotach Eanaigh
Italian: Chiurlo piccolo Norwegian: Småspove
Polish: Kulik mniejszy Portuguese: Maçarico-galego
Spanish: Zarapito trinador Swedish: Småspov
Local Names: May bird, Tang Whaup, Seven-whistler

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Nethersole-Thompson, D. & M. 1986 Waders, their breeding, haunts and watchers Poyser, London [598.6 NET]
See Also:
Find scientific papers on Google Scholar or Scirus by clicking the icon
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides
All About Birds (from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)