• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Willet - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Tringa semipalmata)
"Eastern Willet" T. s. semipalmata, adult breeding plumage
Photo © by bobsofpa
Reeds Beach, New Jersey, USA, 7 June 2011
Tringa semipalmata

Catoptrophorus semipalmatus


"Western Willet" T. s. inornata, adult breeding plumage
Photo © by Craig Thayer
Chicago, Illinois, USA, 6 May 2011

33-41 cm length, 60-70 cm wingspan, 173-375 g weight.

  • Dark gray upperparts
  • Light underparts
  • White tail with a dark band at the end
  • Wings with grey inner wing, striking black and white stripes on outer wing
  • Gray legs
  • Long, straight, dark and stout bill

Sexes alike. Adults in breeding plumage can usually be identified to subspecies in the field, but winter birds much less readily[7].


North America, some wintering south to Chile and Brazil. All populations are migratory, though present all year on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, where breeding T. s. semipalmata move out to be replaced in winter by non-breeding T. s. inornata.


This species was formerly placed in its own genus Catoptrophorus2,3 but is now moved to Tringa1,4


Adult in flight
Photo by STEFFRO1
Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina; 7 April 2014

Breeds in North America, wintering south to Peru and Brazil. There are two subspecies[1]:

  • T. s. semipalmata breeds in coastal marshes on the east coast of North America from southeastern Canada to Gulf Coast and the West Indies; winters from the Caribbean south to southern Brazil.
Darker overall in breeding plumage, with breast heavily barred. On average, 10% smaller, but much overlap in size.
Paler overall in breeding plumage, with breast only lightly barred. On average, 10% larger, but much overlap in size.

The two subspecies have been suggested as a potential species split[5], though this is not well supported by genetic evidence[6].


Breeds in freshwater marsh habitat, outside of breeding found on tidal beaches and mudflats.


Adult winter plumage
Photo © by gigo
Fort Myers beach, Florida; 15 October 2004


Colonial breeders, the ground nest is well hidden in short grass.


The diet includes insects, crustaceans and marine worms, and some plant material. They forage on mudflats or in shallow water.


Rather noisy, giving loud “klip” or “kleep” in alarm and a harsh “wee-wee-wee” in flight, but is best known for ringing "Pill-will-willet" in display on breeding grounds.

Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Año Nuevo State Reserve, California; 31 August 2003


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Christidis et al. 2018. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, version 4.1 (Downloadable checklist). Accessed from https://www.howardandmoore.org.
  3. Sibley, CG and BL Monroe. 1996. Birds of the World, on diskette, Windows version 2.0. Charles G. Sibley, Santa Rosa, CA, USA.
  4. Gill, F & D Donsker (Eds). 2018. IOC World Bird List (v8.2). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.8.2. Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  5. Sibley Guides: Guessing the next ten bird splits
  6. Birdforum thread discussing taxonomy of the species
  7. Birdforum thread discussing the identification of Eastern from Western Willet
  8. Lowther, P. E., H. D. Douglas III, and C. L. Gratto-Trevor (2001). Willet (Tringa semipalmata), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.579
  9. Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Willet (Tringa semipalmata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53916 on 22 October 2018).

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.