Saturday, January 7, 2012

Long-Billed Dowitcher

By far the most interesting bird in North America, the Long-Billed Dowitcher turns heads wherever it goes. Ok, I'm exaggerating a fair bit. Like many shorebirds/waders, the Long-Billed is somewhat muted and requires careful observation and consideration to distinctly identify it from other species. Shore bird identification is an art unto itself, and while the Long-Billed isn't too problematic, it's nice that even these simpler looking birds demand such scrutiny.

This fine fellow was feeding in a drainage/run-off ditch near some cotton fields in west Phoenix. Ordinarily, it's a difficult distinction between the Long-Billed and Short-Billed, especially when they mix  and feed together. Luckily for us amateurs here in Arizona (and I don't mean to say that Arizonans are amateurs, just that it's nice to be an amateur in AZ ok? ok good.), the Short-Billed do not really stray in from the coasts, and they're never found in the state after October.

Another helpful clue is the darker stripes on the bird's tail primaries. I know it's not especially visible here, but the horizontal black and white on those little tail feathers would be a lighter brown with the Short-Billed.

I don't know what he was pulling up from the muck, but he was feeding with determination and gusto. It's always kind of fun to find these sorts of normally gregarious shorebirds all on their own. It makes the sighting seem more rare or more special, and this Dowitcher was a nice highlight on an already excellent birding excursion.


  1. Nice photos and very good information! he does have quite a long bill!