Curlew Trapping and Transmittering with Intermountain Bird Observatory: A volunteer’s experience (Wendy Green, Indian Valley)
After we trapped one of the birds in Indian Valley, the biologists allowed me to be the one to release it just because I've been helping them. So, I got to hold this bird and then Heather instructed me on how to squat down close to the ground and just kind of let the bird find its feet put its feet on the ground and then it runs a short distance before it takes flight so that was fun and interesting to see.
A couple of startling facts that Heather (Intermountain Bird Observatory biologist) shared with us that they've learned from their observations and studies of curlews is that in certain areas not so much in Indian Valley but in the desert, the dry areas south of Boise, they found that there's a high incidence of poaching. People shooting these birds illegally at one point. I think she told me that 50% of their banded birds they'd found shot so there's a tremendous effort now to educate people that these are not a game species. Obviously, there are a lot of birds in Idaho that we can hunt legally people need birds, I do, I'm a hunter. But there's a certain small segment of the population that's maybe out target shooting, and they just see a bird and so oh there's a live target so that's disturbing. We don't see very much of that in Indian Valley, which is a good thing, but we still need to do that outreach.
Also, I think it was interesting for all of us to learn how the males and females share the incubation duties. One bird, the male or the female sits on the bird at night, and then they swap at dawn and dusk. They trade that so one bird can go off foraging while the mate sits on the nest. I found that very interesting. They also mate for life even though one bird leaves earlier to go south for the winter and the other bird leaves first to come back to the nesting area. They still meet up when they get back to their nesting area, they pair up again to nest and in fact Heather said one of the nests they found in Indian Valley this spring was within 30 meters of where they nested last year. That's amazing to me that they go right back to that same field to build their little nest on the ground. Probably one other interesting thing is how protective the males are of their territories. If they see people, trappers, coyotes, crows, ravens they'll fly around and call and try to scare away the threat. You don't have much of a defensive mechanism, but this is such an interesting behavioral aspect of the species.