Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Some Local Shorebird Look-A-Likes

I had a good day for some local shorebirding yesterday. Shorebirds can be extremely confusing and hard to identify for even experienced birders. there is a suite of species collectively known as "peeps" that look alike and most are similar in size. The identification can be largely dependent on structural differences more than plumage.

I was able to find a couple of pectoral sandpipers and some least sandpipers along the Catawba River. In the photos below you can see the similarities in plumage between the two species.

Pectoral Sandpiper by John Ennis
Both species have streaked necks down to the "pectorals" on the breast. Both have yellow legs. the bills are long and slightly down-drooped. But pectoral sandpipers are 50% larger than the least sandpipers, making for a pretty easy identification, even at some distance.

Least Sandpiper by John Ennis
The least sandpiper is quite common and is the most expeted "peep" here in Mecklenburg County. Indeed some spend the winter at a particular site near Pineville. the species has been recorded every month of the year in the county. Only two other shorebirds, the killdeer and American woodcock, can make that claim.