The Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis), now near extinction, was intensively hunted during fall migration along the Atlantic coast from Labrador to Long Island through the late 19th century. Scores of post-1850 records from this region have been gleaned from the literature but the rate of population decline has never been assessed. George H. MacKay's shooting journal, which has been largely overlooked, includes quantitative data on curlew abundance trends from 1875 to 1897 on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. MacKay observed 650 curlews and his party bagged 87 during 231 hunting days logged during the flight period (21 August–2 October) over 22 hunting seasons. The last major flights were observed in 1881. Although he continued to hunt enthusiastically through the early 1890s, annual totals of curlews observed by MacKay declined significantly (rs, = 0.40, p < 0.05) from 1875 to 1897, as did annual bag totals (rs = -0.41, p < 0.05). Annual bag totals of American Golden Plovers (Pluvialis dominica), which often associated with Eskimo Curlews, also declined precipitously during the period (rs, = 0.51, p < 0.01). Journal entries suggest that MacKay abandoned shorebird hunting after a string of disappointing seasons in the 1890s. MacKay's journal offers a unique historical perspective on the decline of the Eskimo Curlew, a species about which little additional historical information is likely to be learned.
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Vol. 33 • No. 2