Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Sandpipers

On our recent journey, I played the role of ornithology professor and John Holden had the role of student. The advantage of these roles for me is that, as I have often informed John, the Professor is always correct—especially when it comes to identifying sandpipers. We happened upon this group of four sandpipers near Leola, South Dakota.

The identification of three of these four shorebirds in the upper photo is not too difficult. The bird in the lower left is a Spotted Sandpiper—look at the spots on its underparts. The small, dark-brown backed shorebird behind the others has yellowish legs, making it a Least Sandpiper. The larger bird on the far right, with its thin, pointed bill and chestnut body stripes is a female Wilson’s Phalarope. Female phalaropes are brighter than their mates. I will have more to write about phalaropes in a future post.

That leaves the center bird, which I identified as a Baird’s Sandpiper. Look at the photo below, taken after another shorebird landed nearby. This time the phalarope is the bird in the background. The remaining shorebirds are what birders call “peeps,” a collective name for small sandpipers. The bird I identified as a Baird’s Sandpiper is the middle bird.  Note the dark legs, sharp transition between the dark breast and the white belly, and the black spots on the back.

The first bird in the lower photo also sports black legs. But it has a less distinctly spotted back and its striped chest transitions slowly to its white belly. Finally its bill is clearly shorter than that of the Baird’s—leading me to conclude that this first bird is a Semipalmated Sandpiper. My companion felt it was unfair for me to offer a week-long workshop in shorebird identification in five minutes at a South Dakota lakeshore.

1 comment:

  1. Laughed aloud while reading this, Dan. What a great post to reference down the road - thanks!