Numenius Phaeopus – Whimbrel

Numenius Phaeopus - Whimbrel found in the central part of US

The Eurasian whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a wading bird belonging to the vast Scolopacidae family. It is one of the most widespread curlews, breeding throughout much of subarctic Asia and Europe, all the way down to Scotland. This species and the Hudsonian whimbrel were recently separated, while some taxonomic authorities continue to regard them as conspecific.

Quick Overview: Numenius Phaeopus – Eurasian Whimbrel
Body size: Around 17-18 in (43-46 cm) and a weight of 550 g (19-4 oz)
Main colors: Brown, Gray
Range: Central United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: March, April, May, September, October, November
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Whimbrel Description

Like other large brown sandpipers, the Whimbrel has a distinctive head pattern of dark and light brown and tan stripes that alternate. Additionally, it has a broad, dark brown bill that curves downward and long gray legs.

Numenius Phaeopus - Whimbrel found in the central part of US
Numenius Phaeopus – Whimbrel. Photo by: Ryanacandee


These birds have a length of 17-18 in (43-46 cm) and a weight of 550 g (19-4 oz). Their wings could range from 31-33 in (79-84 cm).


The whimbrel’s large, curved beak is used to probe deeply into the sand and dirt in search of food. It forages for crabs, fish, worms, and mollusks in shallow water. Additionally, it consumes insects, seeds, berries, and leaves.


During the breeding season, the whimbrel inhabits the tundra. It is found in coastal areas throughout the winter on mudflats, marshes, and shorelines.


Whimbrels probe with their long bills in tidal flats, mangroves, estuary marshes, exposed reefs, sandy or rocky beaches, estuaries, and especially mudflats during migration and wintering. They typically feed alone or in tiny, dispersed groups.

Numenius Phaeopus Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Scolopacidae
  • Genus: Numenius
  • Species: Numenius phaeopus

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds are during the Spring season (March-May) and during the Autumn season (September – November).

Distribution of the Whimbrel in the USA

Breeds throughout much of Alaska and in Canada’s and Greenland’s polar areas. Migrates along North America’s Atlantic coast. Winters in the African continent, the southern coast of North America from California to Mexico, the West Indies, South America, and South Asia.

The Whimbrel can be found in the following states in the United States – Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, and Texas.

Numenius Phaeopus – Whimbrel

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