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Shorebird ID Class

by Mike Hannisian

30 & 31 August, 2002
San Antonio, TX
Published with permission

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER
Bird in a tuxedo smoking a carrot
Large, black above, white below, laterally compressed orange bill
Short legged (for overall size)
Vocalization: High pitched chattery whistles

BLACK-NECKED STILT
Very long, pink legs for size (proportionally longest of any bird)
Black above, white below
Recurved bill
Vocalization: Sounds like a small dog yapping

AMERICAN AVOCET
Cinnamon head and neck (breeding only)
Mostly black wings, rest white (except in breeding plumage)
Grayish legs (often with a bluish cast)
Vocalization: a piping whistle

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER
Breeding: Striking Black and white above, black below except for white vent
Non-breeding: Nondescript
Identify by size and shape
Vocalization: a slurred, whistled pee-wee

AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER
Slightly smaller than Black-bellied Plover
Breeding: 1. Similar to Black-bellied Plover
2. Gold flecks on back and black underneath to base of tail
Vocalization: slurred, high-pitched single note often repeated

SNOWY PLOVER
Sandy back; often with incomplete neck band
Grayish (not reddish) legs
Prefers sand
Vocalization: insect like trill; single whistled notes

PIPING PLOVER
As above but with reddish/orange legs and bill base
Can have complete band
Prefers sand
Vocalization: one and two noted piping whistles

WILSON’S PLOVER
Brown backed - prefers mud
"Thick-billed Plover"
Heavy, dark bill and band
Suggests a one-banded Killdeer
Vocalization: Squeaky; typically two noted

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER
Brown backed - prefers mud
One band - usually complete
Often has orangish legs and base to bill
Vocalization: two notes slurred together; fast or slow

KILLDEER
Two-banded plover
Brown backed - prefers mud
Vocalization: Killdee, Killdee, Killee

GREATER YELLOWLEGS
Canary yellow legs
Speckled to grayish above; white below
Bill suggests an upturn (not perfectly straight)
Vocalization: three whistled notes

LESSER YELLOWLEGS
Essentially 3/4 version of above (GRYE)
Bill proportionally shorter and VERY straight, body slimmer
Vocalization: various number of whistled notes (often 2)

SOLITARY SANDPIPER
Superficially resembles a yellowlegs
Legs yellowish green (not canary yellow)
Prominent eye ring; often spotted on back and wings
Vocalization: typically 2-3 high pitched whistles

WILLET
Large, no field marks until it flies
Prominent white wing stripes in flight
Vocalization: pill will willet; pill will willet; usually calls in flight

SPOTTED SANDPIPER
Prefers fresh water ponds and slow moving streams
Only has spots in spring
Bobs tail (whole rear end) and flies with wings below horizontal
Vocalization: one to two squeaky notes

UPLAND SANDPIPER
Head appears too small for body
Prefers drier (upland) habitats
Vocalization: classic wolf whistle

WHIMBREL
Short-billed version of Long-billed Curlew
Bill prominently decurved
Striped crown
Vocalization: Series (usually 5-7) piping notes

LONG-BILLED CURLEW
Very long, decurved bill
Often in upland fields
Crown lacks prominent tripes
Rufous in wings visible in flight
Usually not with other shorebirds
Vocalization: 2-noted ker-lee; also harsh chatter

MARBLED GODWIT
Similar to above but with recurved bill
Rufous in wings visible in flight
Vocalization: upward slurred, non-whistled notes

RUDDY TURNSTONE
Harlequin patterned (even in winter)
Breeding: bright orange legs; rufous and black feathers
Non-breeding: duller version of same pattern
Vocalization: many busy, squeaky notes

RED KNOT
Large and plump
Brick red breast in breeding plumage
Nondescript in winter
Vocalization: Typically 2-3 sharp, non-whistled notes

SANDERLING
Highly variable; rufous to white - regardless of time of year
Runs back and forth with surf
White stripe runs length of wing; visible in flight
Vocalization: very squeaky chatter; many noted

SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER
Short bill
Wings and tail appear to be same length
Winters outside USA
Vocalization: a burry churrk

WESTERN SANDPIPER
Longish, droopy bill
Often show rufous scapulars
Wings and tail appear to be same length
Can winter within USA
Vocalization: soft trill

LEAST SANDPIPER
Small
Yellowish legs (beware mud!)
Tends toward warm brown on back
Vocalization: burry preset

WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER
Largest of peep (by a little)
Wings extend beyond tail (about 1/4")
Row of marks on flanks below wings
White rump visible in flight
Vocalization: repeated pip, pip, pip,...

BAIRD'S SANDPIPER
Often found in slightly drier habitat than other peep
Wings extend beyond tail (about 1/4")
Vocalization: twittery trill

PECTORAL SANDPIPER
Least Sandpiper on steroids
Yellowish legs (beware mud!)
Tends toward warm brown on back
Vocalization: low, twittery krik

DUNLIN
Breeding plumage unmistakable
Rufous above with black square below
Winter bird without apparent field marks - dun colored above
Has white stripe running length of wing
Vocalization: various repeat low notes

CURLEW SANDPIPER
Old world species - regular but rare on east coast
Breeding plumage unmistakable
Larger than superficially similar Dunlin

STILT SANDPIPER
Long thin (stilt-like) legs
Chestnut ear patch in breeding plumage
Pale supercilium
Vocalization: deep brrreeep

BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER
Prefers upland habitats
Buffy chest
Pale legs

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER
Bill length not diagnostic
Prefers salt water
White stripe up back visible in flight
Lacks barring under tail
Vocalization: tu, tu, tu,... especially in flight; quiet while feeding

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER
Bill length not diagnostic
Prefers fresh water
White stripe up back visible in flight
Has barring under tail
Vocalization: keeeeek; chatters while feeding

COMMON SNIPE
Short legged; long billed
Striped crown and back
Can be common in winter at roadside ponds
Vocalization: wick, wick, wick; wicka, wicka, wicka

WILSON’S PHALAROPE
Only phalarope likely to be seen inland
Female more showy than male
Rufous neck; white throat in breeding
Very pale in non-breeding
Vocalization: soft quack


Original handout Copyright ©2002 Mike Hannisian


 

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