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

Oct 06, 2016 09:19AM ● By Paul Spear

Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”. This week’s bird is the "Long-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)"

The column will provide a picture of a bird(s) locally photographed and we will have background on the bird.

If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link: 

Bryan Brillhart Photography

The Long-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Long-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), a 

medium-sized shorebird in the sandpiper family. Although the two dowitcher species are strikingly similar in appearance, they tend to segregate by habitat. The long-billed prefers fresh water at all seasons; it is a common migrant through much of North America (but scarce in the northeast). Still widespread and common, the numbers of migrants reportedly have increased in some areas during recent decades.

Habitat is in 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, and in the upper reaches of estuaries, but sometimes out on open tidal flats with short-billed dowitchers. They breed in the far north on wet, hummocky tundra.

Long-billed dowitchers typically forage by wading in shallow water (sometimes walking on wet 

mud), probing deeply in the mud with its bill. Usually deliberate in its feeding, they stand in one spot or move forward slowly. Feeding behavior resembles a sewing machine movement. They feed on small aquatic invertebrates. Diet probably varies with the season. Particularly on breeding grounds, they eat many insects and their larvae, including many flies, and beetles. 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.

Breeding range is mostly in the Arctic coastal regions, generally farther north and west than that of the short-billed dowitcher. Nest site is on the ground, usually near water, often on a raised hummock or tussock in wet meadows. Their nest is a depression sparsely lined with sedges, and grasses. The bottom of the nest is often wet.

After mating, females lay 3 to 4 olive to brown, marked with brown eggs. Incubation is by both sexes at first, then mostly or entirely by the male in later stages. Incubation period is in 20-22 days. Downy young leave their nest shortly after hatching. Females reportedly depart near the time the eggs hatch, leaving males to care for young. Young find all their own food. Development of young and age at first flight are not well known.

These distinctive seasonal birds are fun to watch as the stand in the mud poking their bills up and down in a sewing machine motion. They will soon be occupying our great Tijuana Estuary after migration. Look for this species and the many seasonal visitors returning this month. Until next week, happy birding!

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Bryan Brillhart


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