National Geographic : 1915 Aug
MARBLED GODWIT (Limosa fedoa). Range: Breeds from valley of Saskatchewan south to North Dakota; winters from southern Lower California, Louisiana, Florida, and Georgia to Guatemala and Belize. The marbled godwit, one of the largest and finest of American shorebirds, formerly nested in Nebraska and Iowa. A few may still breed in North Dakota but the bulk of the species retire beyond our northern boundaries to rear their young. Though in summer an inhabitant of the interior prairies and marshes, the marbled godwit prefers to winter on the seacoast, and Cooke notes the remarkable fact that it "presents the unique spectacle of a bird breeding in the middle of the American continent and migrating directly east and west to the ocean coasts." While it is easy to prove that the marbled godwit formerly was much more abundant than it is now, it is doubtful if the bird ever existed in numbers comparable to certain other shorebirds, as the curlews and various sandpipers. Wherever it was found, the bird carried with it its own death warrant in its large size, excellent flesh, and its trusting disposition, which not only made it easy to decoy but prompted it to return once and again at the call of wounded comrades. Strict observance of the Federal regulation which prohibits the killing of this and certain other shorebirds until 1918, may possibly save the marbled godwit from extinction, but friends of our shorebirds may well watch with anxious foreboding the history of this bird during the next few years. WILLET (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus semipalmatus). Range: Breeds from Virginia (formerly from Nova Scotia) south to Florida and the Bahamas; winters from the Bahamas to Brazil and Peru. The willet, including under this name both the eastern and the western forms, ranges widely over the United States and formerly bred in suitable localities over much of our territory. On the Atlantic it nested from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico, and probably small numbers yet nest on some of the sandy islands south ward. At first thought it may seem strange that a bird so abundant and so widely distributed as the willet should have been so reduced in numbers, but the real wonder is that any remain after the treatment the species has been subjected to. The bird is wary enough and when alarmed informs the whole neighborhood by its loud outcries of the presence of danger. Yet as the result of being shot in sea son and out of season the species has at length been brought within measurable distance of the end. This statement applies more particularly to the eastern bird. The western form has escaped better, and in fall many of the western-bred birds visit the Atlantic coast. The process of exterminating our eastern willet was accelerated along the coast by the quite uniform practice of robbing the nests for the large and palatable eggs. Under the circumstances, no prophet was needed to foretell the inevitable end. To what extent the willet will be affected by the present Federal regulations remains to be seen. The essential facts regard ing the willet and the fate that awaits it are known to many sportsmen, but it is to be feared that the destruction of this and other species may be hastened by the feeling among them that if the residents of one particular State or locality do not get the few remaining shorebirds others will. HUDSONIAN GODWIT (Limosa hemastica). Range: Breeds from the lower Anderson River southeast tocentral Keewatin; winters in Argentina, Patagonia,and the Falkland Islands. Nothing less than two continents suffice tosatisfy the roving disposition ofthe Hudsonian godwit which, according toCooke, probably breeds on the barren ground from the mouth of the MackenzietoHudson Bay. The species winters inArgentina and Chile and after leaving ournortheast coast probably reaches winter quarters by an all-sea route. On the return journey inspring the godwit reaches Texas in April, and follows up the Mississippi Valley, thus, inageneral way, duplicating the route of the golden plover. The Hudsonian godwit has been greatly aided in its struggle with fate in the shape of merciless sportsmen by thefact that its breed ing grounds are in a distant anddesolate region where itsparental duties arelittle interfered with. Though to-daymore numerous than the marbled godwit, itsdestiny is equally sure and almost as imminent. Nothing short ofabsolute protection for a term of years will save the species from extinction. Under the Federal regula tions, the Hudsonian godwit, like some ofitsrelatives, isgiven aclose season till 1918. Such regulations are easy toenact but aredifficult ofenforcement, espe cially in remote districts, and unless thecordial cooperation ofthe devotees ofthe shotgun can be secured, the fateofthis species, and some others aswell, isonly too certain. LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus). Range: Breeds from centralBritish Columbia, southern Saskatchewan, and Manitoba to northeastern California, northern New Mexico, and northwestern Texas; winters from central California and southern Arizona south toGuatemala, and on Atlantic coast from South Carolina toFlorida, Louisiana, and Texas. Few in our times have known this big curlew intheAtlantic States, although a century or less ago flocks ofconsiderable size were not uncommon. Many of us, however, have made the acquaintance ofthe bird inthe Western States, where it breeds or did breed, from Canada toTexas. Those best acquainted with the recent status of the bird see littlehope forit.The natural extension of agriculture has greatly limited its breedinggrounds, and forthis there isnoremedy. Nor should one be desired, since in the mind ofevery right thinking citizen farms are more important than breedinggrounds forcurlew. Nevertheless, the curlew is not an over-shy bird, and, if accorded reasonable treatment, and left undisturbed during the breeding season, would long survive initsold haunts. Protected till 1918 under the Federal law, itneeds inaddition only the protection ofpublic sentiment to live on indefinitely.Its flesh israther tough and dry, even onthe prairies where it feeds much upon insects and berries, while initsseaside resorts, where it subsists on marine life, its meat istoo strong tobepalatable. As the bird eats many insects and crawfish, we may plead itsutility asanadditional argument in its favor, and beg sportsmen and others who may besaid tohold the life of the species in their hands toabstain from killing curlews. Continued shooting means speedy extinction. HUDSONIAN CURLEW(Numenius hudsonicus) (See page 148). ESKIMO CURLEW(Numenius borealis) (See page 148).