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The Eskimo Curlew is a mottled brownish shorebird with long legs and a long, thin, slightly down-curving bill. It can be confused with its close relative, the Whimbrel, but is smaller (the size of a pigeon), has no barring or "stripes" on the under-wing feathers and its central head stripe is not as wide or well-defined.

Weight: 270 to 454 g (9.5 to 16.0 oz). Length: 32 to 37 cm (13 to 15 in).

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The Eskimo Curlew once nested abundantly in the barrens of the NWT. It had only two documented breeding locations, both in the NWT: at the base of Bathurst Peninsula in the Anderson River area, and in the region of Amundsen Gulf-Coronation Gulf-Coppermine River. Breeding likely also occurred in other areas of the NWT and Nunavut, and possibly in the Yukon and Alaska.

During fall migration Eskimo Curlews flew to the Atlantic coast and then non-stop to Argentina. Spring migration was through Texas and the mid-western states, with some birds found in the Canadian prairies.

Range map information

Known breeding habitat of the Eskimo Curlew consisted of upland tundra, dwarf shrub and grass tundra, and grassy meadow habitat. 

Eskimo Curlews once nested abundantly and migrated in huge flocks. Unregulated market hunting brought the Eskimo Curlew to near extinction during the 19th century. 

The Eskimo Curlew has been near extinction for much of the last century. There has been no direct evidence of nesting since 1866. The last confirmed record was a bird harvested in Barbados in 1963. There have been several unconfirmed sightings since, including the NWT, but none have been substantiated.  

Over-hunting during the last half of the 19th century was the most important factor causing the decline of the Eskimo Curlew. Any current potential threats in the Northwest Territories are unknown.

COSEWIC assessed Eskimo Curlew as Endangered in 1978, 2000 and 2009. Eskimo Curlew was listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2003. The SARA provides protection for individual Eskimo Curlews and their residences. Eskimo Curlews and their nests are also protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and Eskimo Curlews are internationally protected from trade in live birds or bird parts by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

A national recovery strategy for Eskimo Curlew is available on the federal Species at Risk Public Registry. However, scientists have determined that recovery of Eskimo Curlew is not feasible at this time.

According to COSEWIC guidelines, species can be classified as extinct if 50 years have passed since the last credible record, there is no remaining habitat, or there is information to confirm extinction. Eskimo Curlew was last assessed by COSEWIC in 2009, and at that time, less than 50 years had passed since the last confirmed sighting.