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Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus


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Short-billed Dowitcher
credit: Mike Baird/CCSA

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Family: Scolopacidae, Sandpipers view all from this family

Description ADULT summer Has most feathers on back beautifully patterned with dark centers and orange margins, although some appear uniform gray. Underparts are flushed orange on neck and breast, grading to white on belly and toward vent; intensity and extent of color, and of dark barring, varies between subspecies, but typical eastern breeding ssp. griseus are paler and more buff on upperparts, and with white underparts, than ssp. hendersoni that breeds in northern central Canada. ADULT WINTER Has gray upperparts, neck, and breast, and otherwise white underparts. JUVENILE Has back feathers with dark centers and orange margins; diagnostically, tertials have dark internal bars and stripes on otherwise paler background. Neck and breast are flushed orange-buff; underparts are otherwise whitish.

Dimensions Length: 12" (30 cm)

Habitat Common, but declining; nests on northern marshes and in boreal forest clearings. Migration is coastal and ssp. griseus and hendersoni winter on Atlantic coast, mostly on estuaries, mudflats, and brackish lagoons; winter range extends to South America.

Observation Tips Outside breeding season, dowitchers are common on suitable coasts. Specific identification may not be possible with some individuals.

Range Alaska, Texas, Southeast, California, Western Canada, Eastern Canada, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, Southwest, New England, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Northwest

Voice Utters a rattling tu-dlu call.

Discussion Stout-bodied shorebird with long, straight, grayish bill. Very similar to Long-billed and specific identification is often not possible with poor views, and even close views of some individuals. All birds have yellowish green legs, pale supercilium; white rump and lower back is revealed in flight. Feeds by probing mud in deliberate, sewing machinelike manner. Forms flocks outside breeding season. Sexes are similar.