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Dowitcher, short or long billed and why please? :)

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Here is a picture of a Dowitcher photographed in Duluth during spring migration last year. Do you think it's a long billed or short billed dowitcher and why? I did not hear the bird vocalize so ID has to be based on appearance alone, BorealHunter, are you out there? Frankly, this is one species that I have little idea how to differentiate in regards between short and long billed. Minolta5d, Tokina 400mm, iso 400, f9, Converted from RAW, levels, USM. Comments and critiques always welcome. A lowere perspective was not possible due to some wood debris being in front of the bird.

Regards, Shawn Zierman.


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That is such a nice shot and I liked how clear the water is. If I were to give you a guess it would be a Short-billed because of the color around the neck is light colored and the spotted underparts but Steve or Borealhunter would have a better guess.

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That is one sweet image Shawn!...short or long! "really" studying your image and comparing it to my "Sibleys"...I'm going with the the short billed also..well....just because the image in Sibleys (to me)looks more like the short billed ...I'm of course going by bill lengnth only and not coloration or markings of any kind....there's so many types of shore birds some are sooooo hard to tell apart!...looking forward to the arrival of some shore birds up in my area ...would be nice if the lake ice would melt of course grin

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Dowitchers are one of them species of birds that are tough to ID on looks alone without hearing their call notes. The bird in your photo is a Short-billed Dowitcher. Its not a bright adult based on the lack of strong orange buff color on the breast/belly and that might be because its in a transition molt from juvenile to adult.

You cannot ID the bird based on bill length unless if you have both species of dowitchers in the same view. I based the ID on a few factors on the photo you provided.

1. the flanks of breast is not strongly barred as a Long-billed Dowitcher would have.

2. The scapulars would have white tips to the feathers ( Sibley noted this in his book ) and the tips are buff colored.

3. The side of the neck looks spotted as well.

Again the cinch ID mark is the call note that seperates the two species from each other. Also Long-billed Dowitchers arrive in Minnesota in Late April thru mid May while Short-billeds tend to arrive in Minnesota in Early May to June 1-10. Also in the Fall season Long-billeds tend to arrive in Minnesota way before Short-billeds.

Based on the photographed you must of been in Morgan Park mudflats right?

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Thanks for the id help gentlemen. I agree that this is most likely a short billed dowitcher. Hopefully someday I can have the opportunity to observe both species side by side as that what really helped me in learning to differentiate lesser and greater yellowlegs. Good eye Boreal Hunter, the image was indeed taken at the Morgan Park Mudflats. I sure hope the significant rain events hold off until late May/ early June, so the shorebirding can be as good there as it has been in the past.

Last fall stunk, I could not believe how high the water levels were compared to the year before, virtually no shorebirding on the flat when a year prior I had days where I encountered birds in the hundreds!

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