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Willet Catoptrophorus semipalmatus


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credit: Mdf/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Scolopacidae, Sandpipers view all from this family

Description ADULT In breeding season is gray-brown overall, but heavily streaked on head and neck, and with dark scallops on lower neck, chest, and flanks. In winter, looks rather uniformly pale gray-brown, palest on underparts. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but back and upper wing coverts are washed and spotted yellow-buff with pale spots.

Dimensions Length: 15" (38 cm)

Habitat Locally common, nesting beside marshes and wintering on coastal beaches. Represented in eastern North America by ssp. semipalmatus, which is darker (notably in breeding season) than its western counterpart.

Observation Tips Easy to find on coasts in winter.

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

Voice Utters a sharp klip in alarm; song is a ringing peel-will-willet.

Discussion Plump-bodied shorebird with a stout, straight, pale-based bill and longish blue-gray legs. Plumage appears undistinguished when feeding but transforms in flight to striking black and white markings on wings. Typically tolerant of observers. Sexes are similar.