USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Eskimo Curlew

A vanishing species?

A Curlew By Many Other Names

The species was first described for science by Forster in 1772 based on specimens supplied by Andrew Graham, who collected them near Fort Albany, Ontario, on Hudson Bay (Williams 1969). Since then the generic name (the first of the two words in the scientific name) and the specific name (the second word) have been changed several times by taxonomists (Table 3). The current designation, Numenius borealis, was first assigned in 1790 and has survived five challenges to remain its name today.

Numenius is a Latinized form of the Greek neos, new, young, and men, a month, menen, the moon; "the narrow arcuate bill being likened to the new crescent moon....But numenius might also be derived directly from numen, a nod, a bending of the head downward and forward....[Latin] borealis, northern" (Coues 1882:104-105). According to Gruson (1972:102), Numenius is "a Latinized version of the Greek noumenios, which was used by Diogenes Laertius in the third century A.D. for some kind of curlew."

The Eskimo Curlew acquired more than 40 common names throughout its range (Table 4). Aside from "Eskimo Curlew" and its various spellings, Dough Bird (and its various spellings) was probably the most common English name. The latter presumably arose among hunters because of the nature of the thick fat layer that the bird developed on migration. For a time in the 1800s some of North America's prominent ornithologists erroneously applied the name "Esquimaux Curlew" to the Whimbrel (Wilson and Bonaparte [1878]:2:322; Nuttall 1834:97).

Table 3. Scientific names of the Eskimo Curlew.

Name Year Authority Reference
Scolopax borealis 1772 Forster Forster 1772:411
Numenius borealis 1790 Latham American Ornithologists' Union 1886:159
Numenius brevirostris 1823 Lichtenstein Ridgway 1919:415
Numenius hudsonicus 1839 Peabody Ridgway 1919:416
Numenius microrhynchus 1866 Philippi & Landbeck Ridgway 1919:416
Numenius borealis 1886 AOU American Ornithologists' Union 1886:159
Mesoscolopax borealis 1919 Ridgway Ridgway 1919:412
Phaeopus borealis 1931 AOU American Ornithologists' Union 1931:113
Numenius borealis 1957 AOU American Ornithologists' Union 1957:184

Table 4. Common names of the Eskimo Curlew.

Name                                       Area                                 Reference
Akpingak                            LABRADOR (ESKIMO)                   Weiz 1866:267
Akpingek-ik-it (partim)             LABRADOR (NORTHEAST)                Hantzsch 1928:227
Chittering Curlew                   LESSER ANTILLES, BARBADOS           Clark [1906]:255; Feilden 1889:498
Chorlo polar                        SPANISH                             Hall 1960:107
Chorlo camping                      ARGENTINA (LOCAL)                   Johnson 1965 349
Chorlo grande                       ARGENTINA (LOCAL)                   Johnson 1965:349
C'lew                               LABRADOR                            Townsend & Allen 1907:354
Corbegeos                           FRENCH CANADA                       Denys 1908:142
Corbigeau                           QUEBEC                              Dionne 1883:191
Corbigeau des Esquimaux             FRENCH CANADA                       Greenway 1958:264
Curlew                              LABRADOR                            Cartwright 1792:1:159
Curlew Sandpiper                    TEXAS                               Baird, Brewer & Ridgway 1884:1:319
Doe-bird                            MAINE, MASS., NEW YORK              Trumbull 1888:203
Dough Bird                          LABRADOR                            Austin 1932:90
Doughbird                           NEW ENGLAND, NOVA SCOTIA            Greenway 1958:264
Dough-bird                          MASS., NFLD., NOVA SCOTIA           Forbush 1916:416; McAtee 1959:30
Eskimaux Curlew                     HUDSON BAY                          Forster 1772:411
Eskimo-Brachvogel                   GERMANY                             Hantzsch 1928:227
Eskimobrachvogel                    GERMANY                             Johnsgard 1981:358
Esquimaux Curlew                    CANADA, BERMUDA                     Dionne 1883:191; Reid 1884:241
Esquimaux Curlew (=Whimbrel)        NORTH AMERICA                       Nuttall 1834:97; Wilson & Bonaparte [1878]:2:322
Esquimaux-Curlew                    HUDSON BAY                          Williams 1969:84 (Andrew Graham)
Eskimo Whimbrel                     GENERAL                             Seebohm 1888:333
Eskimo Curlew                       NORTH AMERICA                       American Ornithologists' Union: 1886:159
Fute                                NEW YORK                            Baird, Brewer& Ridgway 1884:1:321
Gallou Birds                        LABRADOR                            Hapgood 1887:16
Guilbueach (Beaked one)             NOVA SCOTIA                         McAtee 1959:30
Labrador Curlew                     LABRADOR                            Audubon 1960:1:425
Le courlis des Esquimaux            CANADA                              Taverner 1934:191
Le Courlis esquimau                 CANADA                              Godrey 1966:144
Le Courlis du nord                  QUEBEC                              Dionne 1883:191
Little Sicklebill                   ONTARIO                             McAtee 1959:30
Pi-pi-pi-uk                         ALASKA (ESKIMO)                     Nelson 1887:121
Prairie Pigeon                      MIDWEST USA                         Swenh 1916:333
Shivering Curlew                    LESSER ANTILLES                     Clark [1906]5:255
SmalI Curlew                        GRENADA                             Wells 1886:8
Small Esquimaux Curlew              NORTH AMERICA                       Nuttall 1834:101
Smaller Eskimo Curlew               NORTH AMERICA                       Baird, Brewer & Ridgway 1884:1:319
Swiftwings                          UNGAVE (NASCOPIE)                   Mowat 1984:52
Tura tura                           PT. BARROW (ESKIMO)                 Murdoch 1885b:114
Weekee-meneesew (=Sweet grass)      NORTHWEST TERRITORIES (Cree)        Swainson & Richardson 1831:378; Houston 1974:18
Weekemenew                          HUDSON BAY                          Williams 1969:84 (Andrew Graham)                
Wee-kee-me-nase-su                  HUDSON BAY                          Forster 1772:411                         
We-Ke-wa-ne-so                      HUDSON BAY (ONTARIO)                Lumsden (pers. comm.)                    
Wood Snipe                          BERMUDA                             Reid 1884:241                            
Zarapito boreal                     CHILE                               Johnson 1965:349                         
Zarapito esquimal                   SPANISH                             Johnsgard 1981:358                        
Zatapito polar                      SPANISH                             Johnsgard 1981:358	                 

Previous Section -- Field Identification
Return to Contents
Next Section -- Two Nest Searches for the Eskimo Curlew -- A Century Apart

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Friday, 01-Feb-2013 19:08:28 EST
Sioux Falls, SD [sdww55]