Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus)

(Artwork - 152)
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus)

As a child I knew this bird as the Hudsonian Curlew, a relative of the then critically endangered, and smaller, Eskimo Curlew (N. borealis). Things change. The scientists who determine such things decided that the Hudsonian Curlew was really the same species as a very similar large sandpiper found in Eurasia, called the Whimbrel, and under the rules of nomenclature Ė how animals are named Ė since the Eurasian bird had been named first, that name, Whimbrel, took precedence and the North American birds were thereafter to be called Whimbrels. The Eskimo Curlew became extinct.

Currently scientists recognize seven subspecies of Whimbrel and Iíve shown the one that migrates through the region, near Toronto, Ontario, where I live each spring and fall, N. p. hudsonicus. The spring migration is so regular that local birders confidently expect to see flocks of the birds along the Lake Ontario shoreline on whatever weekend falls closest to May 24th, easy to remember as it is a national holiday celebrating Queen Victoriaís birthday. Birding festivals are often held then, and one lakeside park has a promontory jutting out into the lake called Whimbrel Point.

Another, very similar subspecies, N. p. rufiventris, nests in the western Arctic of Canada, and in parts of Alaska. To my eye the North American birds are distinctly different enough from the Eurasian ones to warrant the original designation as being a species distinct from the birds of the eastern hemisphere.
Iíve seen the Whimbrel in migration, by the thousands, in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the smaller flocks that pass through my region, and individuals of the northwestern race on the west coast, and Iíve seen them on their subarctic nesting ground, which is where I chose to show the bird in my painting, a female with her newly hatched chicks, who are active as soon as they hatch, once their fluffy down dries.

Now fully protected, at least in North America, the Whimbrel, along with the other other sandpipers, was once a favourite gamebird. One can still find old, 19th century decoys of them, once used by market hunters, now coveted by antique collectors. Fortunately, the Whimbrel largely recovered from the low populations imposed by hunting, unlike the now extinct Eskimo Curlew, which was once an extremely abundant bird. Whimbrels are still hunted in parts of their winter range, which extends south into South America. They weigh from about 270 to 493 grams (9.5 ounces to about one pound). The painting, approximately life-size, is in oils on Russian birch and is about 16 X 20 inches.

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Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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