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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Sandpiper IDs Central NJ (1 Viewer)

NJBirder12

Well-known member
Wondering about the sandpipers on the right hand side of the first 2 photos. There is a dunlin in the first for scale and I believe the smaller guys are semipalmated. There are 3 larger birds in frame - can someone identify?

Are photos 4 and 5 semipalmated as well?

Also wondering if the dowitchers are short or long-billed.

Thanks!
 

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tom baxter

Well-known member
I think the small birds in the first photo are all semis. Not sure what you’re referring to about the 3 larger birds. I only see one Dunlin and semis. I think they are all semis in photo 2 although the darker ones might be leasts. 3&4 both semis. 5 with the dowitchers both are definitely short-billed. Long-billed is extremely rare in New Jersey in the spring, there are more records of spring Curlew Sandpipers than Long-billed Dowitchers. You can also tell that the right hand bird is a short-billed by the steep loral angle, kinked bill tip coarse barring throughout the breast and flanks and white underside in addition to more subtle aspects of the covert and tertial patterns.
 

tom baxter

Well-known member
https://photos.smugmug.com/Birds/Sa...witcher/i-VFz2CXP/4/f79c87be/L/_O5C1906-L.jpg

Another helpful but not conclusive way to identify long-billed dowitchers is that they tend to be in deeper water. They frequently swim and/or hang out in water as deep as their belly while I have almost never seen short-billed do this. LB will of course feed on mudflats as well.

This is simply through field observation and photo review online, but I think that long-billed also have longer femurs and I attribute it as an explanation to why they tend towards deeper water. I have never seen this in literature but personally I see it rather consistently. Not an easy ID ever. It requires a lot of careful analysis and even then some photos and silent birds in the field still stump me.
 

NJBirder12

Well-known member
Thanks so much for the detailed info on the dowitchers. I really appreciate it. Is it helpful attempting to measure the bill in proportion to the head or is there variation in that as well on short-billed?

I added a couple more photos of the sandpipers. I pointed arrows to the birds that looked a bit larger to me and circled the ones that looked smaller, but in a subsequent photo they seemed closer to the same size. They are probably all semipalmated as you say. There were also leasts in the area for sure.
 

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tom baxter

Well-known member
I think all of the ones you denoted are semis. I see the appearance of different sizes in the photos but the pattern of the breast streaking and the pale chins on all of them points to semi. Western and white rumped would show at least some streaking on the flanks which none of them show and least would be a more uniform and darker streaking of the “chin” and breast. The size difference is probably enhanced by illusory elements of the photo and possibly also differences in weight among the individuals. Migrating shorebirds can vary quite dramatically in weight with some extreme cases individuals of the same species being 70% different in their weights. 70% is not a precise number that describes the spectrum of weight variation but I have personally seen birds of the same species and location weighed at weights up to 70% apart from one another. The ones on the lowest end of this spectrum probably often die.
 
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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
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