Bristle-Thighed Curlews are found exclusively in their breeding grounds in Alaska and their wintering grounds in tropical Pacific islands. They’re the only birds to winter exclusively on Pacific islands. In their first year, they remain in their wintering grounds while older birds migrate back to the the breeding grounds. In each subsequent year, they make the 4000+ km trip between Alaska and their wintering grounds.
Since Hawaii is their wintering ground, Bristle-Thighed Curlews are most commonly present from late August until early April. Smaller numbers do stay in Hawaii during the breeding season, but they are much harder to find.
Where to Find Bristle-Thighed Curlews in Hawaii
If you’re used to seeing Long-Billed or Eurasian Curlews feeding on beaches or mudflats, you may be surprised to learn the Bristle-Thighed Curlews spend much more time in open fields than on the beach. In fact, nearly all Bristle-Thighed Curlew photos from Hawaii in eBird’s database were taken in grassy fields.
Kahuku Golf Course at the northern tip of Oahu is the most reliable and easily accessible place to find Bristle-Thighed Curlews in Hawaii.
James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge is also home to many wintering Bristle-Thighed Curlews. The the refuge is not currently (as of 2022) hosting regular public tours or activities.
On Big Island, the curlews are commonly found at the golf course of Mauna Lani resort. While I have not yet visited, eBirders have posted some especially dramatic photos of the birds on volcanic rocks. As of 2017, they were often found near the 15th and 16th holes.
Click-through to see details on individual sites.
- Bristle-Thighed Curlew: Birdfinding
- James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, Oahu, Hawaii: Birdfinding — Includes historical information about access to the refuge, as well as the nearby Kahuku Golf Course