Tringa semipalmata

Image of a group of willets gathered on a dock.
Image by Ingrid V Taylar on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Physical: Willets are medium-sized shorebirds with a sturdy build, measuring about 13 to 16 inches (33 to 41 cm) in length and boasting a wingspan of approximately 26 to 27 inches (66 to 69 cm). They have long legs, a straight, thick bill, and broad wings. In breeding plumage, they showcase a mottled gray and brown upper body while their underparts feature some streaking. During non-breeding months, they adopt a more muted gray appearance overall. When in flight, a bold white and black striping pattern on their wings is distinctly visible.

Habitat: Willets inhabit various wetland environments. During breeding season, they can be found in grasslands and wet meadows of the interior North America. Outside the breeding season, they frequent coastal beaches, mudflats, and salt marshes, especially in the southern U.S., Central America, and the Caribbean.

Feeding: These birds are opportunistic feeders, consuming a range of food from marine and freshwater invertebrates, such as crabs, worms, and insects, to small fish. They forage by probing their bills into the substrate, often chasing prey in shallow waters.

Breeding: Willets nest on the ground, often in a concealed location amid grass or other vegetation. The nest is a simple scrape, sometimes lined with bits of plant material. Typically, 4 eggs are laid, and both parents share incubation duties. The chicks are precocial, meaning they can walk and feed soon after hatching but still depend on the parents for warmth and protection.

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