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Bryan Brillhart Photography Presents Dig Imperial Beach "Bird of the Week", the "Long-Billed Dowitcher"

Apr 20, 2016 06:09PM ● By Paul Spear

Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”. The column will provide a picture of a bird(s) locally photographed and we will have background on the bird. This week’s bird is the “ Long-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)”.

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Bryan Brillhart Photography

 Long-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the  long-billed dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), a medium sized shorebird.Adults have yellowish legs and a long straight dark bill. Their body is 

 dark brown on top and reddish underneath with spotted throat and breast, bars on flanks. The tail has a black and white barred pattern. The winter plumage of both an adult and a juvenile is largely grey. They are still widespread and common, and numbers of migrants reportedly have increased in some areas during recent decades. Although the two dowitcher species, (short and long-billed) are strikingly similar in appearance, they tend to segregate by habitat. The long-billed prefers fresh water at all seasons, and it is a common migrant through much of North America (but scarce in the northeast).

Long-billed dowitcher habitat is on mudflats, shallow pools, and margins; mostly on fresh water. Even in coastal regions, migrants and wintering birds tend to occur on freshwater habitats, such as ponds, impoundments, upper reaches of estuaries, and sometimes out on open tidal flats with short-billed dowitchers. They breed in the far north on wet, hummocky tundra.

 They typically forage by wading in shallow water (sometimes walking on wet mud), and probing deeply in the mud with its bill, resembling a sewing machine. Usually deliberate in its feeding, they stand in one spot or move forward slowly. Their diet consists of small aquatic invertebrates. Diet probably varies with the season. Particularly on breeding grounds, they eat many insects and their larvae, including many flies, beetles, and others. In migration and winter they also eat mollusks, marine worms, and crustaceans. At times, they may feed heavily on seeds of grasses, bulrushes, pondweeds, and other plants.

After mating, females lay 4, sometimes 3, olive to brown, marked with brown eggs. Incubation is by both sexes at first, then mostly or entirely by males in later stages. Incubation period is 20-22 days. Downy young leave the nest shortly after hatching. Females reportedly depart near the time the eggs hatch, leaving males to care for the young. Young find all their own food. Development of young and the age at first flight are not well known. Breeding range is mostly in Arctic coastal regions, generally farther north and west than that of short-billed dowitcher. Nest site is on the ground, usually near water, often on a raised hummock or tussock in a wet meadow. Nest is a depression sparsely lined with sedges, grasses, and the bottom of nest is often wet.

I have spotted a number of long-billed dowitchers along the Tijuana River banks in our own Tijuana Estuary in the past few weeks. Look for them feeding in low tide on the expose mud flats. Until next week, happy birding!


Bryan Brillhart

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