Short-billed Dowitcher

Image of a Short-billed dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus, browsing in the mud
Image by ‘DickDaniels’ on Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Physical: Short-billed Dowitchers are striking shorebirds with a length falling around 10 to 12 inches. Their wingspan, quite expansive for their size, stretches approximately 18 to 21 inches. These birds are elegantly adorned with a long, slightly curved bill, which, despite their name, isn’t drastically shorter than that of their close relative, the Long-billed Dowitcher. In their breeding attire, they flaunt a rich rufous on their bellies and chest, intertwined with dark spots and streaks. Outside of this season, they wear a more muted grayish-brown ensemble.

Habitat: These birds are fans of wet environments. Their preferred haunts include mudflats, tidal marshes, and freshwater wetlands. During migration, you might spot them resting and refueling in estuaries or even coastal beaches.

Feeding: Short-billed Dowitchers are voracious foragers. Their diet largely consists of aquatic invertebrates. Using their well-adapted bills, they probe into soft mud or sand, capturing everything from insects to tiny crustaceans. Watching them feed is almost hypnotic; their repetitive, sewing-machine-like motion as they dip their bills into the mud is both rhythmic and relentless.

Breeding: These birds are secretive when it comes to nesting, often choosing spots hidden among vegetation in the Arctic tundra. The nest is a simple ground depression, lined delicately with bits of plants. Typically, the female lays about 4 eggs, and while both parents incubate, it’s usually the female that takes the lead in nurturing and protecting the brood.

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