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Dowitcher & Yellowlegs (1 Viewer)

sirijay

Well-known member
Took these photos a couple of days ago near Oakland, CA. I am assuming the birds in Photo-A are dowitchers and Photo-B is an yellowlegs,
I am guessing the dowitchers are short-billed and the yellowlegs the greater version. Very much appreciate help. Thanks much. Photo-A.jpg Photo-B.jpg
 

sirijay

Well-known member
Interesting... the photos were taken at the Las Gallinas Water Sanitary Plant ponds. I assume these are "fresh water" (waste water) treatment ponds. According to Sibley (I just looked this up), the long bills prefer fresh water but it seemed to me that the short bills may be found in both.
 

Lisa W

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Hi, glad to see you got an ID, just a reminder that per forum rules the location needs to be in the thread title. Thanks.
 

connorco

Well-known member
United States
Interesting... the photos were taken at the Las Gallinas Water Sanitary Plant ponds. I assume these are "fresh water" (waste water) treatment ponds. According to Sibley (I just looked this up), the long bills prefer fresh water but it seemed to me that the short bills may be found in both.
Las Gallinas is one of the most popular and overbirded places in Marin County. They are freshwater ponds. While Short-billeds can show up in migration, and a few overwinter, almost all dowitchers there are Long-billed. The short-billed reports are usually by inexperienced birders, of which there are many in the area. Short-billed are very difficult to find in Marin County compared to the rest of the Bay Area.
 

jmepler

It's just a flesh wound.
Las Gallinas is one of the most popular and overbirded places in Marin County. They are freshwater ponds. While Short-billeds can show up in migration, and a few overwinter, almost all dowitchers there are Long-billed. The short-billed reports are usually by inexperienced birders, of which there are many in the area. Short-billed are very difficult to find in Marin County compared to the rest of the Bay Area.

So, are you saying that you think these are Long-billed Dowitchers? Many people make the mistake of assuming that the likely species is the one they are seeing. This is particularly problematic with difficult to identify species, such as dowitchers.

I checked bill-to-head length ratios for the birds pictured. They were as follows: 1.61, 1.64, 1.56, 1.60, 1.55, and 1.60:1. These are all below the minimum of 1.70:1 for Long-billed Dowitcher, and right around the median of 1.60:1 for Short-billed Dowitcher. Bill shape (drooping tip) looks better for SBDO too.

Any more pictures? Under wing shots are particulary useful.

Some additional information on dowitcher identification here and here.
 

connorco

Well-known member
United States
So, are you saying that you think these are Long-billed Dowitchers? Many people make the mistake of assuming that the likely species is the one they are seeing. This is particularly problematic with difficult to identify species, such as dowitchers.

I checked bill-to-head length ratios for the birds pictured. They were as follows: 1.61, 1.64, 1.56, 1.60, 1.55, and 1.60:1. These are all below the minimum of 1.70:1 for Long-billed Dowitcher, and right around the median of 1.60:1 for Short-billed Dowitcher. Bill shape (drooping tip) looks better for SBDO too.

Any more pictures? Under wing shots are particulary useful.

Some additional information on dowitcher identification here and here.
I would say they should be left unidentified, but they are most certainly LBDO.
 

connorco

Well-known member
United States
Most certainly based on what?
Most certainly based on location and time of year. I agree with you that birds should not be fully eliminated based on if they are expected or not. However, Las Gallinas is heavily birded, and while there might be some winter records from ebird, only one is from a reliable birder, and it was a single individual mixed in with Long-billed. Also, this location is checked a lot, and I and many other birders have confirmed that the vast majority of the wintering flock that stays at the first pond (where this presumably is, considering the dowitchers don't regualrly go to Pond 2 and 3 other then in migration) are almost all Long-billed.
 

sirijay

Well-known member
Apologies for not specifying the location in my original post. From the sounds of this discussion, dowitcher identification is extremely difficult. I gather that this particular bird is most likely a long-billed -- but with a question mark.
Thank you all.
 

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