Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sandpipers: Part III

First up today the Dunlin. The Dunlin is a medium sized sandpiper about the size of a Starling. It nests on the Arctic Tundra and winters on both Atlantic and Pacific beaches. The Dunlin is highly gregarious in winter, sometimes forming large flocks on coastal mudflats or sandy beaches. Large numbers can often be seen swirling in synchronized flight on stop-overs during migration or on their winter habitat. It one of the most common and best-known sandpipers moving along the coastal mudflat beaches. It has a uniquely characteristic "sewing machine" feeding technique. It feeds on insects, mollusks, worms, and crustaceans.

photo taken on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington

The Least Sandpiper is next and it is the smallest of all the sandpipers at 6 inches. It has greenish legs and a short thin dark bill. Breeding adults are brown with dark brown streaks on top and white underneath. They have a light line above the eye and a dark crown. In winter, Least Sandpipers are grey above. The juveniles are brightly patterned above with rufous colouration and white mantle stripes. This bird can be difficult to distinguish from other similar tiny shorebirds; these are known collectively as "peeps" or "stints." Their breeding habitat is the northern typically the Arctic Tundra. They nest on the ground near water. The female lays 4 eggs in a shallow scrape lined with grass and moss. Both parents incubate the eggs. The female leaves before the young birds fledge and sometimes before the eggs hatch. The young birds feed themselves and are able to fly within two weeks of birth.They migrate in large flocks to the southern states as well as Mexico and Central America. Since they migrate such a great distance they often stop over in most of the US and Canada. They forage on mudflats, picking up food by sight, sometimes by probing. They mainly eat small crustaceans, insects and snails.

Least Sandpiper
photo taken at Willapa Bay, Washington

The Long Billed Dowitcher is medium sized sandpiper more common in the West than in the East. They migrate from the their breeding area in the Arctic and Siberia to the Pacific Coast, the South Atlantic Coast, and the Gulf Coast.  Adults have yellowish legs and a long straight dark bill. The body is dark brown on top and reddish underneath with spotted throat and breast, bars on flanks. The tail has a black and white barred pattern. The winter plumage is largely grey. They forage by probing in shallow water or on wet mud. They mainly eat insects, mollusks, crustaceans and marine worms, but also eat some plant material. They are more likely to be seen near fresh water than the Short Billed Dowitcher -- hence, the photo from Lake Cochise in Arizona.

Long Billed Dowitcher
photo taken at Lake Cochise, Arizona

Finally (for today) the Stilt Sandpiper. The Stilt Sandpiper is a small sandpiper a little larger than the Least Sandpiper shown above. It too breeds in the open arctic tundra of North America. It is a long-distance migrant, wintering mainly in northern South America. They nest on the ground, laying three or four eggs. The male has a display flight. Outside the breeding season, it is normally found on inland waters, rather than open coasts. Breeding adults are distinctive, heavily barred beneath, and with reddish patches above and below. The back is brown with darker feather centres. Winter plumage is basically gray above and white below. They forage on muddy shores, picking up food by sight, often jabbing like the dowitchers with which they often associate. Although, in this photo there is a Dunlin in the background. They mainly eat insects and other invertebrates.

Stilt Sandpiper
photo taken on Oregon Coast, Oregon

No comments:

Post a Comment