For over two weeks I’ve studied the photos I took at Long Beach on August 30, 2017 and consulted my trusty bird-books to determine whether these are Short-billed or Long-billed Dowitchers.
“A medium to large shorebird with a long bill, the Short-billed Dowitcher is a common and conspicuous migrant that uses a “sewing-machine” method of foraging across the mud flats. Its long bill is short only in comparison with the very similar Long-billed Dowitcher.”
“There is little information on Short-billed Dowitcher population trends. A 2012 study found no updated information, and so the latest population estimate is from 2006.
“Three subspecies of Short-billed Dowitcher breed in North America…central and eastern populations appear stable….It is not clear what population trends are in western populations. Short-billed Dowitcher is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.”
Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus
tideflat migrant flock
long straight bills knee deep in muck
probe deeply for feed
winter coast-mud-flat dweller
on the way somewhere
Excellent shots, Lindy! 🙂
I have a Messel Bird Fossil of a bird that is around their size and that also has similar long legs. It’s from 50 million years ago; they’ve been around a very long time!
Very cool, Tom — gotta love birds!
So I’m guessing they are short-billed dowitchers, but the subspecies is not clear.
I’m pretty sure they are short-billed for two reasons; the month when I saw them on Long Beach (did not see them before and have not seen them since), and when I compare the bill length relative to the leg length — for both species — these are short-billed. Have no idea what subspecies!
If those are the shorter bills–I wonder how they
could walk with longer ones. The naming of these birds is very amusing. Your photos and writing, absorbing. I love your last line: ‘on the way somewhere’
All the books note that it’s hard to distinguish! I’m judging from the photos and also that these birds were migrating through in August and I’ve not seen them at all in September. Short-billed arrive in late June and leave by September. Long-billed arrive in July and stay until October. (Birds of the Puget Sound Region – Coast to Cascades)
Thanks for your thoughts, Janice!