Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, photographed by Juan Pedro Paz-Soldán.

Belongs within: Scolopacidae.

Numenius contains the curlews and whimbrels, relatively large shorebirds with long, strongly downcurved bills. The whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, bristle-thighed curlew N. tahitiensis and slender-billed curlew N. tenuirostris are smaller species with the bill straighter at the base and a sharper down-curve towards the end. The Eurasian curlew N. arquata, far easter curlew N. madagascariensis and long-billed curlew N. americanus are particularly large species with the entire bill more evenly curved; the last two species have the longest bills of any shore bird.

Characters (from Ridgway 1887): Bill decidedly arched or decurved; wings at least 200 mm long; back of tarsus covered with small hexagonal scales.

<==Numenius Brisson 1760 [=Cracticornis Gray 1841; incl. Mesoscolopax Sharpe 1896, Phaeopus Cuvier 1816] CC10
    |  i. s.: N. antiquus Milne-Edwards 1868 M02
    |         N. borealis JT12
    |         N. minor S66
    |         N. tenuirostris Vieillot 1817 I92
    |--+--N. tahitiensis (Gmelin 1789) JT12, CC10 [=Scolopax tahitiensis CC10, Phaeopus tahitiensis CC10]
    |  `--+--N. hudsonicus Latham 1790 BKB15, CC10 [=Limosa hudsonica CC10, N. phaeopus hudsonicus CC10]
    |     `--N. phaeopus (Linnaeus 1758) JT12, CC10 [=Scolopax phaeopus CC10, *Phaeopus phaeopus CC10]
    |          |--N. p. phaeopus CC10
    |          `--N. p. variegatus (Scopoli 1786) (see below for synonymy) CC10
    `--+--N. americanus JT12
       `--+--N. madagascariensis (Linnaeus 1766) JT12, CC10 (see below for synonymy)
          `--+--*N. arquata (Linnaeus 1758) CC10, JT12, M02 [=Scolopax arquata CC10, *Cracticornis arquata CC10]
             |    |--N. a. arquata M03
             |    `--N. a. orientalis M03
             `--N. minutus Gould 1841 JT12, CC10 [=*Mesoscolopax minutus CC10]

Numenius madagascariensis (Linnaeus 1766) JT12, CC10 [=Scolopax madagascariensis CC10; incl. N. australasianus Gould 1838 CC10, N. australis Gould 1838 CC10, N. cyanopus Vieillot 1817 CC10, N. rostratus Gray 1843 CC10, N. rufescens Gould 1863 CC10]

Numenius phaeopus variegatus (Scopoli 1786) [=Tantalus variegatus, Phaeopus phaeopus variegatus; incl. N. atricapillus Vieillot 1817, Scolopax luzoniensis Gmelin 1789, N. uropygialis Gould 1841, Limosa uropygialis] CC10

*Type species of generic name indicated


[BKB15] Burleigh, J. G., R. T. Kimball & E. L. Braun. 2015. Building the avian tree of life using a large-scale, sparse supermatrix. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 84: 53–63.

[CC10] Checklist Committee (OSNZ). 2010. Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand, Norfolk and Macquarie Islands, and the Ross Dependency, Antarctica 4th ed. Ornithological Society of New Zealand and Te Papa Press: Wellington.

[I92] Iwahashi, J. (ed.) 1992. Reddo Deeta Animaruzu: a pictorial of Japanese fauna facing extinction. JICC: Tokyo.

[JT12] Jetz, W., G. H. Thomas, J. B. Joy, K. Hartmann & A. Ø. Mooers. 2012. The global diversity of birds in space and time. Nature 491: 444–448.

[M02] Mlíkovský, J. 2002. Cenozoic Birds of the World. Part 1: Europe. Ninox Press: Praha.

[M03] Morcombe, M. 2003. Field Guide to Australian Birds 2nd ed. Steve Parish Publishing.

Ridgway, R. 1887. A Manual of North American Birds. J. B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia.

[S66] Sclater, P. L. 1866. Remarks on recent additions to the Society's menagerie. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 203.

Last updated: 10 August 2019.

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