Cowboy hunting

Spring Curlews arrive early. The fields have not yet completely melted in the fields, and flocks of birds, sometimes up to 30-40 individuals, are importantly walking around the thawing knolls and long beaks, pulling sleepy insects – spiders, beetles, butterflies, worms from last year’s withered grass like a pair of tweezers.

Most often, hunters see large curlews during the period of takings. Sitting with a decoy duck in a tent on a puddle in the middle of a vast field or meadow, on a black grouse or sitting on a geese among the sphagnum swamp, we often observe current flights and hear the marriage songs of these birds.

Sometimes in one field or a meadow, up to 5-6 pairs are gathered, and all morning, day, and even in the deep twilight, pleasant loud and sonorous flute whistles and trills of birds are heard. The male takes off from the ground and, seldom flapping wings, issuing a variety of iridescent trills, planning a flight circling over the place where his chosen one sits. The female also rises into the air, and then they plan together over the chosen place, often sitting down on the tubercles with rare vegetation. Here they mate. Other couples are treading on the same field, often flying over the “alien” territory, but conflicts do not arise.

The brackets are monogamous. Formed after the arrival of the pair keep together the entire breeding period, equally participating in hatching eggs and the subsequent rearing of chicks. Often in a single field or a meadow, several pairs of birds nest. Nests are located in a small hole, covered with grass. A couple of times I managed to find them among the low rare grass-standing.

In full laying four eggs. They are olive-brown, with large brownish spots, the size of a chicken, but with a more pointed end. The nasizhivayuschaya bird does not admit to itself close, but leaves the nest and, running away on 50-100 meters, soars with an alarming cry. The second bird from the pair immediately joins the incubated and with loud cries begins to circling above the object that caused the alarm.

Nesting nearby curlews also rise on the wing and together they try to drive the troublemaker out until he retires. It can be people, cows, wild boars or land predators – foxes, choruses, cats, dogs, as well as representatives of birds, especially crows.

Hatching chicks are very vulnerable, as they grow quite slowly, gaining the ability to fly only after 25-30 days. The only way to stay alive is to hide in the face of danger. The nestling bends its long legs, lies down among the grass, pulls the head in the trunk and freezes. Protective coloration and complete immobility often help to avoid danger. However, a large feeding chick on high legs, which is in constant motion, is visible from afar. Having noticed it or quickly finding on an odorous trace, the dog left without a tether will not miss an event and will crush the found kid. With alarming cries, parents fly over it, trying to take it away or drive it away, but it does not always turn out that way.

In the summer of 2011, I managed to follow the fate of four chicks from the brood, which was only 300 meters from the extreme houses of the village. On the wing rose only one, the remaining chicks died. Almost every hour in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening, right from the street, the alarming cries of adult birds were heard, trying to drive away from the chicks that cat, then the dog, then the man.

In the autumn, large curlews fly to wintering in Africa, India, England and the Mediterranean quite early, and by the end of September in the European part of Russia you will not meet him.
In previous years, large curlews were not specially hunted because of their extreme caution, they were only obtained by accidentally flying birds during the summer-autumn hunting of waterfowl. Nevertheless, their number has been steadily declining over the past two decades, and since 2000 they (and also the small-billed or small, Far Eastern) have been listed in the Red Data Book of Russia, otherwise, if they continue to act as negative factors, they can fall into the category in a short period of time “Under threat of extinction”.

And not hunters at all (in any case not Russian ones) played a decisive role in this, but the degradation of habitats, the constant concern of the nesting birds in connection with the anthropogenic development of the territories, the growth of the number of predatory mammals, and the gray crow, magpie and crow.

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