Whimbrel splashing along a shoreline
Whimbrel feeding along the edge of the waves at a beach in Bandon, Oregon. © Steve Dimock

Stories in Kansas


August Shorebird of the Month

Robert Penner stands with crossed arms, looking to his left and laughing.
Robert Penner Cheyenne Bottoms and Avian Programs Manager, Kansas


Shorebird Watching

at Cheyenne Bottoms


It's always exciting on the rare occasions I'm lucky enough to spot a whimbrel. They are a very, rare migrant here at Cheyenne Bottoms and one of the largest shorebirds we get here—almost 18 inches long. The few times I've seen one in the past 20 years, it's usually in a wet meadow of Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve and not along the shorelines of the wildlife area.

Fun Fact

A blueberry a day: whimbrels are one of a several shorebirds that include fruit in their diet, sometimes leading to clashes with Canadian blueberry farmers.


Charcoal drawing of a whimbrel
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) The long, curved bill of the whimbrel is often used to forage crabs out of burrows and the meat out of the shell. © Robert Penner/TNC


Whimbrels are widespread—either breeding or wintering on every continent except Antarctica. They are mostly coastal. In North America, they migrate and winter along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, rarely making the trip inland. Look for them in wetlands and on shorelines. 


Low concern globally but mostly because  these birds have  a very large range.  In North America, however, whimbrel populations are declining and the bird has been on the State of the Birds Watch List in the past.


Very rare migrant. In the spring, 90% of all whimbrels arrive in a short window: May 6-25. Fall passage through here is more spread out, early July through mid-October.


BACK to the Shorebird of the Month gallery

Robert Penner stands with crossed arms, looking to his left and laughing.

Rob has worked as The Nature Conservancy’s Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve Manager for 22 years, increasing habitat for migrating shorebirds and nesting grassland birds at the world-renowned wetland.

More About Robert Penner, PhD